Electric Soul, Part II

Part IPart IIIPart IV

(Near future sci-fi stuff, in case you missed it last time. I was very tempted to break this into more than three parts due to the length. Part I is posted below.)

Director of Operations Office, Regeneratix, 11:20am, Thursday, June 26, 2087

“Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike,” Bert Sanderson said, looking at me from across his rather expansive desk.  “Did you know that I lost a hundred dollars the second you walked through the main doors?  I had a bet going with Wells in accounts that you’d never show your face here, again.”

     Bert had a large office with every modern amenity possible.  It was all flash and display, of course, but that was a reflection of Bert; he was a showy, shallow type who liked his own hype.  He should have been born a peacock; instead, he was the Director of Operations for Regeneratix Canada.  He wasn’t all bad, just mostly.  My earliest dealings with Regeneratix were with Bert’s predecessor, Ralph Darington, who was remarkably similar to Bert, so my connection to him was sort of forced.  I believe he was a junior executive in the company at the time I hooked up with them, but I never clicked with him the same as I did with Ralph, who was a little less annoying.  Anyway, Bert could be colourful, at the best of times, but our relations had grown strained and broken.  The odd message he would send seemed to seethe with aggressive language and accusation; what made it worse was that he only knew half of my wrongdoings.

     I was distracted by the movement of fish in the wall-sized tank behind him.  They were all recovery creatures, used as a showcase for the healing technology of the future that was Regeneratix’s stock and trade.  What I was working on for them represented an attempt to break into a different area, and I expected they were disappointed.

     “Well, I figured it was overdue,” I said, hoping that I would be better off cutting the crap and getting straight to business.  “I have something to run by you.  I think you’ll approve.”

     “Really?” Bert laughed.  “A thousand messages, mailings and attempted visits later, and you have something to run by me?  Well, this should be pretty damn good, Mikey.  I’m almost thinking I should have a few drinks first, but I might die of old age before I hear your voice, again.  So lay it on, I’m a captive audience.”

     “Okay,” I continued on, without responding to his bull.  “The project has had several hiccups along the way, as you know, but I’m almost at the point of wrapping it up.  The early results threw me off, but I’ve isolated all the issues and dealt with them.  I know I’ve told you this before, so I won’t go over the details.”

     “Whoa there!” Bert chirped up suddenly.  “I just want to cut you off for a second, in case you’re about to waste our time here.  Everything you’re about to run by me, just now, is it going to answer this question: do you, or do you not, have a fully operational bio-processor that comes anywhere close to the specifications in our original designs?  That’s easy, right?  You’re a smart guy, so just answer me that question.”

     Stupid bastard, I thought.  I wanted to bounce his smug face off his giant desk, but I had years of experience in keeping my cool through stuff like this.  “The short answer is yes.  Would you like me to go on?”

     “That’s great news!” he piped up with more mock enthusiasm.  “So, before you go on, do you have test results?  Maybe we could go see them together?  I’m sure I could find a brainiac or two who would ride shotgun.  Whatchya say to that?”

     “I would say that in October, I will be happy to do that.”

     “Oh, now it’s October,” he jumped in again.  “Well, that’s great.  Here I was thinking it would be next year.  I guess your predictions are getting tighter, at least.”

     “I’m willing to go a step further, if you want to hear it.”

     He was interested, even if he was suspicious as hell.  I felt slightly better.  If I had his interest at this point, even slightly, then he wouldn’t be able to say no to the juicy little offer I was going to pitch.  He wouldn’t say no because the offer was too good to be true, and it was.  The reality was that someone needed to be screwed in this equation, and I didn’t have the heart to throw the university under the bus.  Greedy, corporate pukes like Bert were simply part of a money machine that only cared about the bottom line.  Where I was at, it really was just a detail that mattered less and less; all I needed was to be left alone until the end of October.

     “I do want to hear it,” he growled.  “But first, I want you to hear something.  This fucking project of yours has been a massive pain in the ass.  It’s been an embarrassment for too long.  I won’t go over the fun and excitement we’ve had since you shut us out, because I’m sure you have a good idea.  What you might not have as good an idea about is the flurry of activity in our legal department.  We actually have an amazing case, right now, but the legal guys want it rock solid.  They want it rock solid because I threatened to cut their fucking balls off if we didn’t have your head on a platter when the dust settled.  You see where this is going?”

     “Yeah, I follow,” I said, “and I know you’re pissed.  I don’t blame you.  But I have something for your legal department.  If you like, I can just present it directly to your legal monkeys.”

     “What, and miss the chance to have the first look at it?  No chance.  Hand it over.”  I gave him the pack of papers.  I had them drawn up about a year before, for a situation just like this, when my back was to the wall.  After Morgan dropped by, I knew what I had to do and got my attorney on it.  Rolly Paluamalau was an old buddy from before my own university days.  He was an odd duck, but he was an amazing lawyer and had my stuff ready in two days.  I couldn’t have made it as far as I did without that guy.

     “It’s fairly involved, but the short version is that you get full rights to all of my findings and work, including the final product, and I will leave up an offer to work for you that is damn near slavery.”

     Bert was quicker than I had thought; he had already covered the document while listening to me.  “Mikey, Mikey,” he said, returning to pure sarcasm, “you sure like to sweeten a deal, I’ll give you that.  Tell me, though, where did you get a figure like two hundred thousand a year from?”

     “Easy, really.  I did a little looking, and it seems the going rate for someone of my qualifications is around eight hundred thousand.  So, I did some more looking and found out that if you factor in the damage I’ve done to my reputation in the last few years, assuming my work falls short, I’m still worth about four.  So, I work another twenty years and Regeneratix recoups a few million.”

     “Getting a few million back over a few years…I dunno, Mikey,” he said, wheels turning just below the outward veneer.  “That falls a little short of the mark, in case you haven’t kept track.”

     “I thought of that,” I wound up for the whammy, now.  If this didn’t get me until November, nothing would.  “I also thought about the alternatives.  If the project falls flat, not that it will, but if it does, the university will get their equipment back.  The court might tie up access for a while, but Regeneratix won’t keep it, and I think you know that already.  There’s no point in working your legal team to death over a lost cause.  In that case, you sue me and get next to nothing because I have drained my personal finances into my work.  If you push me too hard, I promise my notes and whatnot will be posted on public domain networks the same day.  I would be happy to do time for that, too.  So that’s scenario one.”

     I took a quick breath, surprised that the smartass hadn’t interrupted.  “The second scenario is that my work is a wild success.  Regeneratix instantly becomes the world leader in bio-computation.  I know my competition, Bert, and they’re so far behind me it’s not even funny.  Your only concern, at that point, is keeping out of a monopoly suit.  The university won’t care much about the academic loss, as long as they get their equipment back, free and clear.  That’s the good scenario.”

     “So you’re suggesting I take your word that you’ll soften our losses with a long service.  Is that right?  Why should I trust you?”

     “Bert,” I asked, “what choice do we have?  I’m offering Regeneratix a contractual guarantee that softens the blow, which is a hell of a lot better than getting nothing.  In that case, I’d be perfectly happy to have the job, even for that pay.  I know I’ve stalled for a long time, and you have no reason to trust me, but this is a contractual deal that puts a time limit down.  I’ve put it in writing, this time.”

     The wheels were turning and Bert was hooked.  He would never give me the satisfaction of an answer on the spot, so I rose to leave.

     “You know I have to run this by legal?” he asked.

     “Yes,” I said, “but you know the offer, so it’s up to you.  I’ve already signed your copy, and left a registered copy with my lawyer.  If you decide to go ahead, contact him.”

     “I’m still trying to think of a good reason why I shouldn’t just shut you down and take a chance that legal gets a piece of the equipment.  You got any contracts to cover that?”

     “No,” I responded gently, “but you’d lose the chance to soften the loss or win big, if I strike gold.  You finally have my deadline in black and white, Bert.  I have nothing left to offer you.”  And that was essentially true.  I walked out of his office knowing I had him and knowing Regeneratix Canada’s legal crew wouldn’t be going home early.

#

The Lab, 2:11pm, Friday, June 27, 2087

Rolly called in the middle of a tissue scan.  Most calls never came through to the lab, but I had programmed a chosen few into the system that would alert me.  It was a bitch to interrupt the scan; however, things were in the balance and I couldn’t afford to let the call pass.  Rolly was an awesome guy, who I owed a million times over.

     “Hey, Rolly, how are things?”

     “Very, very strange, my genius friend, very strange indeed,” Rolly boomed back with that giant, Polynesian voice of his.  “You sure get into business with some strange people.”

Rolly was one of those people who are always happy, no matter what.  You could see it on his face and posture, and really couldn’t help but hear it in his voice; my phone system was automatically programmed to drop the incoming volume a little from Rolly’s number.  I first met him at a party in Aurora that had spilled over from a pre-university mixer.  Rolly is as big as his voice and didn’t need any help taking care of himself.  At the time, I wondered if he weren’t on a football scholarship or something.  Anyway, some drunken guy, who was almost as big as Rolly, knocks him over from behind and makes a slurred racial comment, hoping for a supportive laugh from the crowd.  I had been chatting with a group of people, including Rolly, when this happened.  I was drunk, and my need for immediate justice high, so I suckered the drunken guy; and by some miracle, knocked him flat.  If I threw that punch a million times I probably wouldn’t have scratched him, but that night he dropped.  Rolly never, ever forgot that night and we have remained friends, ever since.  He passed his bar and worked for a few firms over the years before opening his own office.  He charged me next to nothing and didn’t care that I took forever to pay.  All for one drunken punch in his defense.

     “Very true, Rolly,” I laughed back.  “Lately, it seems to be getting worse.”

     “Well, I can’t help you with that part, Mike, but I can’t chit chat too much.  I’ve got one of your strange people on the other line, right now.  Some guy named Bert, sounds like a jackass.  Anyway, he says he’s ready to go with your deal, but he has to talk to you right now, or it’s no dice.”

     “That’s strange,” I pondered.  “Do you think there’s a legal angle to it, like recording my verbal agreement or something?”

     “It wouldn’t mean anything if he did,” Rolly said.  “Sounds more like he’s got something personal to say.  I tried to put him off but I can tell you he won’t sign without some chit chat.  It’s your call on this.  There is no legal harm, either way.”

     “All right, Rolly, put him through then,” I said, trying to switch gears from science to Bert.

     “Okay, Mike,” Rolly said, “Call me back if you want, I’m around for a few more hours.”

     The line switched over to Regeneratix.  “Hi Bert, what can I do for you?”

     “You could tell me you’ve figured out how to change lead into gold,” he opened sarcastically, “or maybe found the meaning of life.  Right now I’ll settle for your word on something.”

     This was strange.  I had abused and abased my word for a while now, so I couldn’t figure out where he was going, or why he cared.  Bert was too sly to take my word, anymore.

     “All right, Bert, what is it?”

     “I’m ready to go ahead with your offer.  I’ve got enough support from the board to move forward, even though it feels wrong.  I’m the only guy left to kibosh this thing, and I’ll kibosh the fuck out of it if I don’t get your word on something.”

     “Okay, go ahead.”

     “It’s going to work, right?” he asked.  “When you’re done, you’ll plug it in and it’ll work.  I have your word on that?”

     “This project has gone on for about ten years, Bert,” I said, sounding more tired than I intended, “I can’t remember the last time I took a full day off.  My social life doesn’t exist.  I’m broke and my academic career is a wreck.  I didn’t do that to myself for a maybe.  Bert, you wanted my word that it will work out, now you’ve got it.”

#

The Lab, 9:14am, Monday, June 30, 2087

“Good morning, Morgan,” I was positively beaming into the vid-phone.  I felt good, even though I was being rushed to complete the project of my life.  I had bought off Regeneratix with a meaningless offer and I had a goal, a real deadline; it was the first, real deadline in a long time.  I was happy to have avoided losing it all right away, which was almost the case.

     The weekend was comprised of several tests and retests, before breaking down a condensed schedule into roughly fourteen weeks.  It would be tough sledding, but I allowed for almost a week of buffer.  Barring the worst, I would be ready to initiate the final experiment on schedule.  I could have called just about any science grunt in my field to help me with the final run, maybe even have automated it, but I preferred Morgan’s good judgement and experience; besides, I couldn’t necessarily trust anyone else.

     “Hi Mike.  Long time, no see,” Morgan was smiling, too.

     “How does your October look, again?” I asked.

     “Pretty busy, but what did you have in mind?”

     “The third week of it,” I said, taking a sip of coffee.  Even the coffee seemed to taste better than usual.  It was definitely a good day.

     Mike looked a little shocked and set his scheduler to vertical display, flipping the screen ahead to October.  A myriad of notes dotted the days on the display.  He had a full schedule.  “Give me a second, here…” he mumbled as he scanned through his appointments.

     “Listen, Morgan, if it helps at all, I don’t actually need you for the full week.  I just need you available during that week.  I won’t need you for more than a day.  Two, at the most.”

     “I see,” he said.  “That doesn’t entirely help, but I do have some flexibility.  I can put off some of this, and probably get away with cancelling a thing or two.  How much notice will you give me?”

     “Unfortunately, I can’t say for sure.  Let’s just say a maximum of a day, unless I’m ahead of schedule.  I’ll have a better idea in early October.”

     “The best I can do,” Morgan offered, “is forty-eight hours notice, unless you can give me more time.  It’s a busy stretch.”

     “Okay, forty-eight hours will do fine,” I said.  “I’ll try to keep you in the loop as things progress.  Thanks, Morgan.”

     Morgan made a quick series of notes on his schedule as he spoke.  “No problem, Mike.  I’m sure it will be interesting.  I’d chat more, but I’m about to give a tour to some undergrads-to-be.”

     “Yikes, how did you get roped into that?”

     No lectures in a long time means I have to do crap like that, now and then,” Morgan sighed.  “My alternative was to review the chemical storage inventory, so I chose the three hour tour, instead.”

     “Good call, Morgan, and thanks again.  I’ll be in touch.”

#

The Lab, 11:08pm, August 27, 2087

     “Hello?” I mumbled into the phone.

     “Is this Doctor Michael Hawlorne?” a cold, flat voice responded.  I had been sleeping when the call came through.  My phone didn’t alert me unless it was a call from a preset list, so I was surprised I didn’t recognise the voice; the bigger surprise was the use of Doctor as my title, because nobody called me that.  Phone hacks were still possible, and this smelled like one.

     “I think you have the wrong number, mister,” I said, still a bit muddled.

     “Dr. Hawlorne,” the caller went on without acknowledging, “you probably don’t know who I am, but I suspect you know the group I represent.”  It was one of those psychos from PureLife, I could just tell.  No one else opened up with creepy shit like that.  I was a little dozy, so I didn’t hang up right away.  “I realise that previous contact from PureLife may have been threatening or peculiar, by your standards.  I must apologise for their behaviour.  Things have changed, and I thought I should discuss that with you.”

     “Did you know this was a secure line?” I asked.  “And did you realise it’s eleven o’clock?”

     “You are correct on both counts,” the crazy voice went on, “and I hope you understand the nature and timing is not my preference, but you are difficult to reach and I felt the need to give you an update on how PureLife will behave in the future.”

     “Awesome,” I blurted out, perhaps too rudely.

     “Dr. Hawlorne, your work with bodily tissues remains a transgression in our eyes.  That fact has stayed the same.  What has changed is our approach to dealing with it.  Your laboratory cannot be permitted to continue with the blasphemy of the flesh, but I felt it was best to warn you of our action plan.  Our intent is to punish the sin and not the sinner.”

     “Punish?” I replied, awake enough to be pissed off and too dopey to hang up.  “This might just be the weirdest threat yet.  I thought you said things have changed?  Sounds like they’ve got worse.”

     “On the contrary, Dr. Hawlorne.  For now, I will be brief.  You have until the end of September to close down your lab or we will take physical action against it.  It was important you be warned so you could save yourself from harm.”

     “The end of September, eh?” I was about to add another name to my fuck you pile.  More than any of the rest, even the money whores at Regeneratix, the band of PureLife shitheads had it coming.  “Seeing how you’re being reasonable and all, what if I made you a deal?  Something that would help us both, perhaps?  Or are you just like your predecessors, really?”

     There was a pause.  The self-assured, self-righteous dick was off balance for the first time in the conversation.  I’m sure that my speaking to him, almost respectfully, was unexpected.  Some of these protesting types got it into their head that they were going to be reasonable, honourable or decent, unlike their previous leaders.  If I was lucky, I could shame this one into a deal.  The pause grew awkward.

     “All right, Doctor Hawlorne,” he finally spoke up, “I will hear your proposal.”

     “You are clearly in charge of things, so you understand what deadlines and other obligations are like, right?”

     “I’m not sure I follow the general line of thought, but I understand.”

     “Good,” I went on, “that’s the first thing you need to follow.  Are you familiar with my connection to Regeneratix?”

     “I am.”

     “Okay, then I’ll explain it all,” I said.  “Regeneratix has been pushing me to get my work done too soon.  They are threatening to put someone else in charge.  What’s worse for your cause is they have been pushing me to take a far less ethical approach.  My work is generally against your beliefs, I know, but if you knew what Regeneratix was planning, you might be happier with me than a Regeneratix replacement.”

     “You are not making sense, Doctor Hawlorne.”

     “Sorry, I can be longwinded,” I apologised.  “What I’m trying to say is that Regeneratix has ticked me off.  They are giving me unrealistic deadlines and pressing me toward unsavoury uses of the project.  If you’ve read my paper on bio-ethics, you’ll understand my view of things.”  He probably hadn’t read anything I’d published, including the paper on bio-ethics, but it always threw a wrench into their thinking.

     “Please get to the point, Doctor Hawlorne.”

     “Here’s my side of the offer,” I said.  “I will make sure my current research doesn’t find its way into military or other hands.  I will also provide you a complete list of the projects in the Regeneratix database, including the locations and contacts for all of them.  I’m not happy with some of their work, so I can only imagine the outrage you will feel.”

     A slight moment of hesitation; fishy had taken the hook.  “An interesting offer, but what is it that I can offer you for that information?”

     “A small reprieve would be enough, one that would be helpful to you, anyway.  Leave me and my lab alone until November.  That’s the Regeneratix deadline.  If I don’t get the project done, the next guy will be less scrupulous.  You wanted to stop me at the end of September, and all I’m asking is for another month.  That month will get you the naughty and nice list from Regeneratix, if you’re interested.”

     Another pause.  “Give me a moment, Doctor Hawlorne.”  Consulting with his fellow nutcases, no doubt.  It didn’t matter much, either way.  PureLife had threatened action before and was sure to do so again.  It would be nice to screw them over, though; a firm kick in the teeth for all the love and affection over the years.

     “Doctor Hawlorne,” Captain PureLife came back, “what assurance do you offer for your side of this…bargain?”

     “How about this?” I said, feeling giddy inside.  “You give me a call on the first of October, perhaps at a more reasonable hour.  If my lab is still running, I will send you one location and project that you don’t currently know about.  How does that sound?”

     There was no hesitation, this time.  “I look forward to speaking with you on October first, Doctor Hawlorne.”

     So will I, I thought, so will I.

#

Old Henry’s Pub ‘n’ Grub, 8:31pm, October 19, 2087

“Mike, is there any particular reason why you’ve chosen this…place?” Morgan was laughing.

     “There is, Morgan,” I replied cheerfully.  “It was the last place I could remember going out to eat before I went into my little seclusion.  I admit it has lost some of the charm I remembered, but the beer is still cheap and the ambiance, well…”

     Morgan and I looked over the place.  Of course, I had already been there for ten minutes, but the second look was amusing.  The place was one of those originally a sports bar turned family restaurant turned karaoke bar turned cookie cutter franchise bar turned pseudo-authentic pub kind of places; and it had seen better days.  Most of the tables had been carved into with all the eloquence of a typical, knife-wielding patron.  Luckily, I had found a spot in the corner with a less mutilated table and balanced chairs.  The lighting was fairly low, probably hiding certain failings from the cleanup crew.  The walls had been painted a burgundy colour with a line of wooden trim about halfway up.  The bar had a matching set of brass rails along the top edge and foot rest.  The mirrored wall behind the bar, sporting innumerable types of alcohol, had lost a bit of shine from years of cleaning.  A couple of illuminated beer advertisements cut through the dim haze of synthetic tobacco smoke.  Some of the patrons looked like the type to rob you on the street.

     “It’s not the nicest place,” Morgan said, testing his chair before sitting down.

     “Yeah, I guess so.  Did you want to go somewhere else?”

     “No,” he said, smiling, “I’m probably overdue for a place like this.”

     The waitress had made her way over, and I hoped she hadn’t listened to our conversation.  She was a cute, young blonde with a bit too much makeup and a provocative outfit; late October seemed a bit cold for a short skirt and tight tee shirt.  A girl like that was clearly aware of how gratuities worked.  She was easy on the eyes, but I couldn’t help noticing the crooked nose.  It looked like it had been broken.

     “Can I getchya somethin’, honey?” she asked Morgan, barely a second after he was seated.

     Morgan took a quick look her way, and I could tell he noticed the nose, too.  “I’ll, uh…have one of those,” he said, pointing to my beer.

     “You got it, darlin.’” she said in her perky little voice.  She was pleasant to look at as she walked back to the bar.  Broken nose and all, I found her attractive in a fleeting, meaningless way.  Too much time in a lab, I guess.

     “What the hell are you drinking, exactly?” Morgan whispered.

     “I believe she called it Jagerhundt,” I said, trying to pronounce the name in German.  “I just asked for the best stuff they had and she brought me this.  It’s actually pretty good, but I’m not much of a judge.  This is my first alcoholic beverage in…shit, it must be three years.”

     “That’s quite an endorsement; you should have gone into marketing.”

     “And it’s a good thing you stayed out of comedy,” I said, trying hard not to watch the waitress returning.

     “There y’are,” she declared with a wink, “I think you’ll like it.”  I didn’t even bother trying not to watch her leave.  Morgan stayed quiet as I watched her go.

     “I have to admit I’m really excited,” he said.  “Whatever you’ve been working on must be amazing.”

     “It is, Morgan.  I’m also excited, and the final test has yet to be conducted.  Even if it fails, I regret nothing; the advances I’ve made will be passed along.”

     “You make it sound like you’re ninety, Mike,” Morgan sipped his beer, his face still deciding if he liked it.  “I know your career is in a pinch, but you have lots of time to recover.  And maybe a fresh start will is just what you need.”

     I couldn’t tell him yet, so I smiled and drank.  I knew I would have to be a little careful with how I worded things until I aired it all out.  “I suppose.”

     “So, while we’re on the topic of work, what is it you need me to do?” he inquired.

     “Not a lot, really,” I explained.  “Mostly, I need you to observe and record.  Depending on how the test progresses, I might need you to monitor some of the equipment and make minor adjustments to the settings.  It will be straightforward.”

     “Very mysterious, Mike,” he chuckled.  “How long will the test take?”

     “That’s completely open-ended.  If the experiment goes poorly at the beginning, we will be finished very early, like an hour or less.  If the experiment is a wild success, we will be tied up for the whole day, and possibly beyond.  Don’t worry, though, I will try to have you home for supper.”

     “That’s okay, Mike,” Morgan assured me, “you have me for all of tomorrow, even through supper.  My schedule has been easier to rearrange that I thought.”

     “Oh, how’s that?” I asked, even though I had suspicions of why.

     “Well, you remember that Chinese lab that was driving me forward?  It turns out they were doing work, very unofficially, for none other than your precious Regeneratix.  Nobody would have known, except that those PureLifers got wind of it and burned the place down.  So it’s not that I’m coasting, but the immediate pressure is off.”

     “That’s good news,” I said, hiding my smile by taking a slug of beer.  “Those PureLife types must have good sources.  You are probably the only one doing meaningful research in that specific area.”

     “Basically, yes, but to change the subject, why have you asked me here tonight?  I thought we’d be reviewing some notes or covering my side of things for tomorrow.  Now you’re telling me I’m mostly observing.  What’s really going on here?”

     Morgan was a shrewd cookie; he already suspected there was more to my research.

     “I need to leave a couple of things with you, Morgan,” I said.  “Before I go too far, I also need you to sign this for me.  There’s nothing freaky about it, just something to cover my bases, down the road.”  I handed the envelope to him.

     “Hard copy.  Very official.”  Mike pulled out the contents and squinted his way through reading them over in the poor light.

     “The nondisclosure thing is legal crap for Regeneratix, really.  Because you’re not a permanent employee of the lab, I need you to sign it.  It covers me against another of the million pieces of legal shrapnel I’ll have to dodge.  The other paper authorises you to deal with my lawyer, in case of emergency.”

     “Emergency?” he raised an eyebrow.  “Like what, the sky falling?”

     “Or tripping and falling on a sharp pencil; that sort of thing.”

     “Interesting,” he mumbled.

     “There’s also another envelope there, but don’t open it.  It’s a compilation of notes regarding cellular regeneration and stabilization in neural systems, and a hodgepodge of other stuff you might find useful in your own research.  If things go badly for me, it’s all yours.”

     “Wouldn’t it all be Regeneratix property by then?” Morgan asked.  He looked like a kid at Christmas who had been given the wrong present, knew it, but wanted to open it, anyway.

     “That stuff is fringe material, not quite worth a patent,” I said.  “You could put it to use without citing it because anyone could have discovered the information with enough work.  Anyway, it might not be that useful to you, so don’t thank me yet.”

     “Okay,” he said, producing a pen and signing the agreement, “are there any other things you wanted to go over before we adjourn?”

     “Not specifically.  I have a few odds and ends to update you on.  I’ve modified some of the equipment, mainly to keep it on par with the current stuff, so I’ll need to go over that with you.  It’s nothing too outrageous.  My testing method is peculiar, by current standards, but it works.”

     “Has Regeneratix given you specific expectations,” he asked, finishing his JagerHundt, “or are you working to your own standard?”

     “A little bit of both.  There are some tangential aspects to my final product that definitely fall outside of my corporate arrangement, but that’s okay.  Considering my current situation and the adjustments I’ve had to make, they can fuck themselves if they don’t like it.”

     That got both of us laughing.  It felt like old times, and that was good.

     “You boys like another one?” our waitress asked on her approach.  She moved nicely and I couldn’t help but smile appreciatively.

     “I think we would,” I said, ignoring Morgan’s protesting look.

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