He was dying. Which put his remaining time at a premium. He’d hammered out a deal in record time. Willard debated making another call, but there was nothing he could wrap up in fifteen minutes. He pressed his intercom. “Is my eleven thrity here?”
“No Mr. Davis”
“Send him in as soon as he arrives”
He thought about asking for a name. “Tell him I plan on leaving promptly at Noon.”
Hopefully this wasn’t short. He didn’t have another awkward set of minutes to while away before his lunch with his son. In the one sliver of open time they could find between their schedules.
He look out of his windows. It had become unfashionable to have windows as large as his but he liked his view of the city. He loved looking down at the utilitarian roofs, dotted with air-conditioners and helipads. He looked as far off as he could towards the edge of the city. He often wondered how the squalor that he passed by on his drives could culminate into something this beautiful on the whole. Light rains pattered the world and little rivers slid down the glass, nearly lining up with avenues.
His eleven-thirty was someone from an applied technologies firm that his capital firm had bought a controlling interest of a few years ago. One of the partners had made an on-site visit a few weeks back, to make the management fee. He’d been insisting that Willard take a visit, that there may be a huge cash cow in this struggling concern they were filling with debt before they sold off their interest. He turned back and read the cryptic memo had a few last minute words “Ask about the monkey, I told him to bring the monkey” He tossed the note and sat in his chair.
He stood from his desk. His knees buckled. His hand shot out to catch himself on his glass desk. He should’ve gone with mahogany. It was classier a bit overdone though, also a bit old-fashioned, but screw those kids.
He pulled himself up the last few inches before settling. He was glad he was alone. The only one who noticed his stumble was a tortured self-portrait of a soho artist who’s shot himself. Willard didn’t like it but most of the people in the firm knew his name and the price that came along with it.
Recently, he’d learned that there were twenty steps to his washroom. He noticed each one now. He washed his hand and splashed his face with cool water to get color back into his face. He looked into his own eyes. He’d seemed to have aged a decade in the last year. His hair was all silver. It’d spread from his temple as his wife had faded away. His chin was sharp but now they sagged has his own health began to fail. He loved his wife but he wished more of them had his chin.
He should’ve stayed home with his children when he had the chance. They all came for her but the only one there now was Ronald. Holed up in his shack on the edge of the property,a drunken art school dropout. Theo was a junior partner at a Securities Firm, the youngest in history but the company. He had to schedule his lunch meeting a month in advance. Williard was a little proud of that. Paul was in Europe, Junior was in law school and Rose had just started at Yale. All five kids had grieved and moved on.
Theo only agreed to lunch because, Willard could get him in the Russian Tea room. They’d exchange words and then his son would run off to network. He didn’t blame him, he would have done the same in his day. He had once or twice didn’t he?
His assistant spoke through the intercom. Willard returned and hit the reply button and said nothing. He poured himself a glass of water from the wet bar. 11:26
The man who entered wore the standard sharp suit and carried a large bird cage under a tarp inside. It swayed as he walked. He set it on the floor near the entrance. And proceeded towards him with firm cool steps. This man wasn’t a scientist. He was slick and young. His skin was dark and his teeth were whiter than white. He might have been one of Willard’s own breed of men.
He offered his hand and Willard took it. “Ibrahim Kilyrk”
“That’s a unique name.”
“My father was Iranian and my mother was Russian.”
“And you?” Willard took a sip.
“A Yaley.” He stopped “I won’t waste your time Mr. Davis. I know you're a busy man and I know you have better places to be.”
“You’re not a Scientist” Willard let his observation go more easily than he usually did. “They’re not given to deference”
“A good observation, although I find that the level of scientist that you meet are obsessed with their own work and they find it hard to grasp that they may be the only ones. I’m a Scientific Rhetorician.”
“We must pay you well.”
“I have a sliding scale for things that are truly revolutionary.”
“Dr. Venner’s Monkey?”
“Your monkey, you paid for it. The final project that Venner assembled from nearly every project run out of Fulcrum Technologies project. From material sciences, nanoengineering, quantum computing, robotics and animal psychology.”
“One of those things is not like the other.”
“Hence the monkey” Ibrahim said he walked away from Willard and towards the birdcage. “It’s the first stage of Dr. Venner’s overall project. One, in which, we could begin human testing.” Ibrahim released a breath. Either a bad sign or a calculated pause. Willard assumed it was calculated for his own protection. “If we aren’t saddled with debt by our well paid managers and controlling partners.”
“We own the company we can do what we want.” Willard said
“You own this monkey too, and you can do what you want. I would ask that you let me inform you first.”
Ibrahim pulled the cover away and a small furry ball lay in the corner. But it wasn’t an animal it was like a stuffed animal. It turned and looked at him. It’s small camera eyes and square head. It moved slowly from the edge of the cage and crawled around. It’s fur moving like a stiff coat over a slim hard frame.
Willard smiled wryly “How much did this cost?”
“Twenty million dollars”
“I think I have better ways to spend twenty million dollars. Have a good day Mr. Kilryk”
“We taught him a trick”
“I don’t care” Willard said as he put his glass away and reached for a coat.
“When he was flesh”
Willard stopped. Ibrahim continued.
“This isn’t a robot monkey. I mean the body is. The mind is an exact replica of a real monkey. The animal psychologists confirmed it. Monitored it’s behavior and taught it some tricks. It’s the same monkey mind in a new monkey body.”
Willard turned. “It”s the same mind.”
“Same memories, experiences, behavior. I am expected to show these guys around so I got to know both monkeys. If you don’t mind the religious terms I’d say they have the same soul.”
“Who’d want this? What’s the market for duplicate monkeys?”
“The Pentagon. They want to be able to pull training from pilots and put them in drones.. I have a spiel I’m working on to sell this tech, would you like to hear it”
“Go ahead until Eleven fifty.”
“ The body was easiest, a million dollars. A human should be between 10-15 million. We cannot adapt the body shape. Our brains evolved to work with these neural inputs and these shapes to alter them would be disastrous.”
“Why?” Willard said
“The analogy I’m working on is a jello mold. If you have a jack-o-lantern shaped jello and try and jam it in a christmas tree shaped jello mold. You’re going to have a mess, not jello”
“So no drones, what then?”
“Well we’ll have to settle for Immortality.”
Willard eyed the man, he looked back.
“...in a sense. What if we could copy say, Dwight Esienhower and had him plan our invasion of Iraq, or have Einstien at CERN. We could back up our best minds of the day, for tomorrow.”
“Okay” Willard said as he laughed “I see why he recommended you to me”
The man’s head crooked “I’m sorry”
“I’m dying” Willard said “They think you can appeal to me and I’ll fund you”
“I wasn’t aware...”
“Don’t bullshit a bullshitter” Willard said. He never used to curse but it’d been slipping into his vocabulary since Minnie died.
“We have to run human tests, it’d be years before we could...”
“I don’t have years, I’m sure your company will survive after we’re done managing it and sold it off. If this is a miracle then....”
“We can’t afford to lose cash now, we’re in the middle of a very precarious situation.” Ibrahim took a step forward. Willard could feel himself being examined. This guy was a lawyer not a whatever-whatever. A shark, he was being read prodded trying to be lead to the properly paid for response like a jury. Willard had to put him down
Ibrahim let loose “We’ve already done it.”
He sunk, retreated. Ibrahim had snuck a double edged sword and they’d both been cut.
“I’ve just admitted my part in a federal crime.”
“The bar is over there.” Willard pointed.
Ibrahim huffed and stormed over to the bar and sloppily poured himself a drink. Willard took his coat off.
Ibrahim downed the drink. “We put some feelers out through my lobbying firm. We had a meeting with a few Pentagon higher ups and a congressman on the black ops committee. The congressman, he’s a fucking Zealot and nearly shut us down...”
“I’d prefer it if you didn’t curse” Willard said
“Of course not, if I said fuck it may remind you of how much your fucking us over. The Rep through a hissy fit. But a general ignored him. Black ops is black ops after all. They gave us a few paralyzed and locked in soliders. Do you know what locked in syndrome is.”
“A completely aware and conscious vegetable. it’s one hell of a thing” Ibrahim poured another drink and slid back into his explanation.
“Copying the mind is hard. There’s risks You can’t store a consciousness. It needs constant input from a body or it decomplies, which is a way of not saying ‘goes insane’.
He took a gulp “The inputs have to be match to an identical brain structure made of silica and some rare earth elements. The subject is put under for nearly a week and their put in a deep coma. Less current brain activity the easier to copy the structure. We have to build an entire brain from nanotubes, mimicking every one of the billions of synapses. We got a manufacturing robot, damn cool, but one mistake ruins the whole project. We begin to copy every electrical impulse, that takes a few days and once every measurable thing matches every measurable thing. We separate them. The robot turns on and we have to slowly wake up the prime” He poured another
“It’s what we call the original person. The copy is named v1”
Ibrahim sat on the steps near the bar.
“We tried with the locked in guy. Arnold Vargas SEAL. Vargas v1 killed Vargas prime. He said it was no way to live.”
“Oh my God” Willard said “You can actually do this?”
“Yes....and later he killed himself. We’re trying to hush it up but The Pentagon is backing away, the congressman is sniffing around and we can’t do a proper cover up if we’re filing for chapter eleven. We need you. I was hoping that if I blew enough smoke up your ass..”
“Did the Monkeys meet each other?”
Ibrahim pulled himself up. “They played with each other. To be honest these are the dumbest species of monkey’s we could find. They have no self-concept. They can barely fathom their own reflection. They just think it’s another Monkey” He poured a third glass.
“What are the chances of survival for the prime?”
Ibrahim smiled just a bit. “Nearly fifty percent the sedatives are strong. There is a greater risk of permanent coma. They prevent REM sleep it’s too much activity. So you’d wake up feeling like you haven’t slept for a week, because you haven’t.... We’d need to have doctors to check up on you first.”
“Who says I want to do this?” Willard said
“We all want to live forever but you may be able to afford it.” He tipped the glass back.