February and I move in to the mall and set up our clinic in what used to be a tanning salon. We hang the approval on the wall and eventually put some pictures around of our happier clients. We have three types of treatment: Restoration, Augmentation and Alteration. Restoration is the simple healing process based on the person's DNA. This is for patients who've lost a limb, want to get rid of a scar or tattoo, gotten bad vision over time, or anything else that can be repaired by the person's own DNA. Augmentation is when we make a change that's perfectly normal for a human to have, like changing someone's natural hair or eye color. Alteration, which is the most expensive, is when we make major changes, like giving someone a tail or making their skin zebra striped. Despite the fact that it's still completely human, gender switching is put in the category of Alteration because it's such a major change to the person's body.
Since we only have three chambers for the coccoons to grow in, we can only treat three patients at a time. The process still takes three to four days, so when they're all full we close and put up an estimation of when we'll open again. Business is good enough that whenever we open up, we already have a line, even though we explain the limitations on how many people we can treat on the sign that says when we'll be open again.
Whenever somebody completes their treatment, regardless of what we're doing, February or I have to go right to their room. We've set up lights in the lobby and each of the four rooms to light up when somebody has finished. In the lobby and our room, these lights also have alarms. This way, regardless of what we're doing, whether we're eating, sleeping, talking to another patient, making love or whatever else, we know to stop what we're doing and take care of the patients.
A lot of people who've had alterations have asked for things that are too specific, or that won't work for what they want to do. Some people want wings because they think they'll be able to fly, for example. It might be possible in a hurricane, but the human body is too heavy to fly. Maybe they could glide a bit. I'll have to have February try it out so I know for certain. Also, some people want things in a particular pattern. Like two people who wanted zebra stripes that were mirror images of one another, or people who specify a tail length. These things aren't actually in DNA. They're random, so I can't be precise enough for what they ask. In these instances, I make sure to explain what won't work and why to make sure it's what they really want.
Pretty soon, February and I both start to have pain in the back of our mouths. The dentist takes a few x-rays, and as it turns out, our wisdom teeth are growing in again. The dentist was a bit baffled by this, since we had both had our wisdom teeth removed already, but we figured out pretty quickly that it's a side effect of the chamber. By restoring our body's DNA, we undid any surgical changes, including the removal of our wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, our dental plan only covers wisdom teeth removal once, so we had to put the charge on a credit card.
Once we found out, we added that side effect to our list of warnings to patients before allowing them to use the chamber. In addition, we began calling up previous patients to let them know what to expect. Some actually demanded that we pay for their second wisdom teeth removal surgery, and we were generally able to avoid lawsuits by paying half the price of the procedure.
One day, we wake up early to the sound of some large gathering of people in the mall making a lot of noise. I get up to check it out. It turns out to be a protest of some sort. A group of probably about two dozen people with pickets and a news crew. They're right outside the clinic, so they're probably protesting my invention. I wouldn't be surprised. This shouldn't hurt our sales, because we've got way more people who want our services than people we're actually able to help. I want to make the idea of it a bit more well known though, so perhaps hospitals might start using them, so I decide to go out there and debate it with whoever's in charge of the group out there.
I come out and warmly greet them, "Hello, can I help you people?"
"Yeah, do you work here?", one of them says as she walks over to me.
"Yeah, I sure do. Are you the one who organized this group?"
"Yeah, we're protesting the device in there. It's unnatural! What do you have to say about that?"
"So are those", I say, pointing at her chest, "Being a medical professional, I know implants when I see them."
"All I had done was a little surgery, I didn't have my DNA altered!"
"I don't alter people's DNA, I simply use altered DNA to allow for modifications. Let's use the example of a breast size augmentation. In surgery, you take a lot of risk. The anaesthetic is risky, cutting that close to vital organs is risky, even the silicone itself could be deadly if it leaked into your blood stream. On top of that, many women who get implants lose feeling in their breats, removing one of their natural pleasures. My way takes longer, but has none of those problems. Instead of breasts with silicone in them, you'd actually have larger natural breasts."
"But they wouldn't be natural... They-"
"They'd be more natural than yours."
"And I'd be able to undo the change by the same procedure by using your natural DNA, which would remain unchanged."
She's silent for a moment, thinking of some witty retort when one of the other protesters calls out from the crowd, "How much?"
A moment later, somebody else calls out, "Can you make me taller?"
I smile, knowing that if she said anything now, she'd look like a fool. I respond to the shouters with the URL of where they can look up everything about the clinic, and I make sure it's audible to the news camera that's rolling. Later that day, the news company asks me for an interview. Within two weeks, I start getting calls from hospitals and plastic surgery clinics. February and I begin training other physicians in the use of these devices right there in the clinic. The only problem now is that I'll need to make a lot more chambers. I strike a deal with an engineering company to manufacture these chambers for me, since they can do it quickly. I inspect and approve their process of manufacturing. I purchase the chambers in bulk from the company, then sell them to hospitals and plastic surgeons, making sure first that they have somebody trained to use them properly. Eventually we hire other people to act as instructors, and the process is automated enough that we no longer have to do anything for the money to roll in.
After a while, we have enough money that we start thinking about closing up for a week to go on a vacation somewhere. This would be our first break from work in a few months that we'd actually be able to leave. For the five days before we leave, we simply wouldn't admit new patients. Once again, things are looking up. One of the things we decide to do, while vacationing, is try out February's wings. We decide to go parachuting down a canyon for this particular test. February successfully glides on the first try. She also tries doing a few tricks. For example, by diving a short distance, enough speed can be worked up to rise a little higher than the distance fallen at the cost of some forward speed. If she gets too slow, she falls, but she can use a second of falling to regain enough speed to continue gliding. Since her wings are part of her, she has an amazing amount of control over her movements. It might be difficult for her since she hadn't used them before, I don't know, but she looks very graceful in the air. Then again, from the ground, I can usually just see her wings, which are each approximately two feet wide and four feet tall.
She enjoys gliding so much that we decide to postpone our other vacationing plans for another day to spend an extra day gliding. This time, she takes me with her. She wraps her legs around my waist which I hold with my arms, and she holds my shoulders with her hands. Of course, I'm also wearing a parachute, just in case. It's a lot of fun, even if she does get me a bit dizzy with some loops and stuff. I'm sure it's much more fun for her though, since she's the one controlling the flight.
Soon after our vacation, the money is rolling in quick enough from the training and sales that we decide to close the clinic and move into a one bedroom apartment while we save up for something a bit bigger. A few months later though, I find out that people are being trained to operate my medical chambers from other sources. I realize that the chambers themselves will probably start being made elsewhere too, so we won't be able to rely on them as our only source of income forever. With this in mind, I decide to look for another job. Looking on Jake's List, I see that a nearby video game company, Delirisoft, is looking for an AI coder. I decide to apply. My degree isn't in programming specifically, but I have taken a few programming courses for Engineering, my second major, and I'm sure Psychology, one of my minors, would be useful in writing AI.
Usually, for an AI position, they want someone with a lot of experience, but most places will let you take their programming test regardless. In this particular test, I have to use C++ to create and parse a basic AI scripting language, and use it to write a very basic AI for a simple provided enemy with provided physics in a provided environment. It's simple enough and I'm able to get an interview. At the interview, I find out that they're looking for somebody to write one overall AI for a final boss. This boss will analyze how the player plays throughout the game and gauge it's difficulty accordingly. In addition, the boss is supposed to have whatever the player has. If a player missed a powerup along the way, the boss should be missing that powerup as well. This game is based on a wacky children's cartoon, and the final boss is moon-themed, so they decided on the name "Lunie", derived from the words "Lunar" and "Loony".
Usually a person isn't hired to write AI for just one enemy, but Delirisoft felt this was a big enough task to warrant budgetting a new employee for. The job comes with all the standard benefits, and they decided to pay a little over entry level. They decide that because I'm entry level, but AI coders usually make way more than that. AI coders are usually not entry level though, so they decided to go a little high because it's AI, but not to stray too far from entry level salary.
The place I found was a tanning salon. It was perfect because tanning booths are set up for use in a similar way to the healing coccoons. Since we had have patients there overnight, we needed to be open 24 hours a day. Since that meant we couldn't really go anywhere, we decided to move in. We were in a mall so everything we could need was nearby. We never even had to go outside. I liked spending all my time with Rick too.
Business was always pretty good. Whenever someone completed their treatment, there would be someone over to take their place within a few hours. After an incident with some protesters though, the place was publicized and we actually had people sitting outside waiting to be healed or altered. They'd bring enough supplies to sit for probably up to two weeks, even after we increased our prices. At this point I suggested to Rick that he have some more coccoons made. We could buy out one of our neighboring stores and expand our space to accomodate them. We already have extra help because we've started training other doctors to operate the chambers. We never set them up though, we closed down instead. We made a lot from training people and selling chambers.
We went on a vacation to see some canyons where I got to try out my wings. For my first glide, I went straight accross the canyon to the other side, which was a bit lower. I realized that I can rely on my wings to hold me up. I still fall with them spread out, but not as quickly. With more trust in my wings, I try moving them a little. By moving one up & the other down, I can turn. I can also angle myself up or down to change altitude and speed. Angling upwards slows me down, and I don't want to go too slow or I'll fall. I found this out on my second flight accross when I tried to reach the point I started at. I was able to catch myself by folding my wings, angling down to gain speed, then spreading them to catch the wind. I actually found that I increased my altitude a little when I pulled up to balance myself after catching the wind. After landing and returning to the top, on my third flight, I combined these two things into one swift motion by looping up backward. At the height of a loop, I slow down to nearly a stop, but the subsequent fall of the loop regains my speed. It actually gives me enough speed to raise my altitude a bit higher than when I started the loop, though not by much. I found that I could also get a small altitude boost by dipping down with my wings folded and quickly pull up and spread my wings. I spent the rest of the day and the following day really getting used to my wings.
We had enough money to retire, but Rick didn't feel like we did so he decided to get another job. I find an openning for him online at Delirisoft, a video game company. While he's working there, I take care of managing the the healing chamber sales. I get a really creepy letter about them from someone named Ray Sebright. In his letter he explains that the chambers are immoral and that his mother died as a result of them. I send a letter back asking where his mother was treated so we could look into it, but I never got a response back.
I've always believed that we all have some purpose in life. I hadn't found mine, but I've always been sure that I'd be shown my path eventually.
My mother was in a car accident recently and went into a coma. Her arm and face were disfigured. We were told of a new treatment that could help her using her own DNA. I do not like the idea of playing with DNA. It's not ours to change. Against my better judgement though, I told the doctor to go ahead and treat her.
When the process was complete, she was horribly disfigured. She didn't just look like she was in some sort of accident, she looked like she had been mutated. It turns out that she was pregnant and the device had trouble deciding who's DNA to use to restore with. The device killed her. It's my fault for going against my better judgement. I knew I had to do something. The best I could think of was to write a letter to the device's creator. If they're smart enough to figure out how to make the device, then they should be smart enough to realize that there's something really wrong here.
That's what I thought, at least. I recieved a letter back asking for more info. They told me that the device must've been used improperly. This made me irate, but I still had no idea what I could possibly do.
We put the money from her life insurance into internet security. It seemed like a safe bet because people will always want the internet to be secure.
Copyright 2006 Sean Breslin