Saturday, September 06, 2014

Rough Draft: Personality Enhancer

Tony Gripson keyed in the code on his smartphone to link it to his drug dispenser.  Maijan would be leaving soon.  He heard she was already making the rounds, saying good-bye to her colleagues at the Project Center before jetting off to Florida to start her five year training cycle that would eventually take her to Mars.  Tony had one last chance to keep her on Earth.  He needed to be ready.  
The dispenser's app came on the screen.  He skipped the opening screen asking him who he wanted to be today.  He'd been thinking about it for the last two weeks, when Maijan had turned her notice.  Tony knew exactly who he needed to be.  
He used his finger to flick up and down through the menu items.  Here...  This one for relaxation.  And this one, to increase logical thinking, to counter any arguments she might make.  The main one...  Where was it?  What was it called again?  Dropsi-- Droxi--  Here!  Draxcidil.  The "youthinizer."  He was close to two decades older that Maijan.  From their conversations, their weekly lunches together, he didn't THINK the age difference mattered to her.  But the compound also emphasized the parts of one's personality that came to the front in romantic-social situations.  It gave one "game" as Melina, the financial manager, liked to call it.  
He hit the green "enable" button on his phone.  The dispenser, still sitting like a big lifter on a launch-pad in its recharging stand, started to blink "yellow-yellow, yellow-yellow," as it mixed the combination and charged the dispenser.  
The dispenser was blinking "yellow-green," when he heard the knock on the door.  Damn.  Too soon...?  Yellow-green...  Yellow-green...  "Who is it?" Tony called through the door.  
"It's Maijan.  I am about to leave.  I was hoping..."  
Yellow-green...  Yellow-green...
"To say 'good-bye.'" 
Yellow-green...  Green-Green!
Tony yanked the dispenser from its recharging base and jammed its micro-thin tip into the top of his thigh through his pants leg.  He thumbed it and held it down until it flashed red, indicating a full injection.  
Tony glanced at his phone.  It told him the cocktail would take about two to three minutes to take effect.  He could use up that much time, couldn't he?  
"Hey!"  Tony gave her a big smile as he opened the door.  
"Hey!"  She smiled back, giving him a little wave with her right hand, then one with her left.  Then another quick combination, right and left again.  It was from a private joke they shared, about her owing him greetings from when he walked through the department to say "Good Morning" to everyone .  
"Come in, come in..."  He stepped aside, holding the door open for her.  He caught her scent as she walked past.  Like green tea mixed with lavender.  He felt it tickle his nose and make him feel a bit light-headed.  This was followed by a flushing feeling like he'd taken 500 mg of niacin.  
The tickle and light-headedness was his normal reaction to Maijan.  The flush must be his personality enhancing cocktail kicking in.  
"Good timing."  Tony moved around to his side of the desk.  Maijan looked up and gave him a squinting smile, making her almond eyes disappear into dark curves marked by her long, chestnut lashes.  "I was just about to come looking for you."  
"Now you don't have to, as I've come looking for you instead."  
Tony's initial boost of confidence at feeling his enhancements kick in stalled and began a slow, unpowered decent.  He bent forward, butt hanging over the surface of his chair as he took a second look at her.  
Maijan was enhanced as well.  Her eyes, normally bright and alert, were now Focused, with a capital, "F."  Her pupils were slightly, but noticeably dilated.  Her legs were crossed with one hand sitting on top and the other typing out a rhythm like she was sending a constant stream of text messages.  
Her smile, though, was its friendly, inviting self.  Surrounded by the other signs of enhancement, Tony had a brief suspicion that their relationship over the months she'd been working in his department was based on a judicious use of her dispenser.  Had she just been doing her best to get along with the boss?  
No.  No...  He had gotten to know her well enough that she was a very casual enhancement user.  Energy boosts when one needed to pull an all-nighter, or when she needed to stay alert overseeing the final installation of a component.  She had probably given herself an injection to keep her going these last couple of days to make sure everything was wrapped up before she left.  
But it meant that his own enhancement might be completely wrong.  He had assumed he be facing her unenhanced.  Had he known...
"Is something amiss?"  She cocked her head to one side, watching him like a screen with important data running across it.  Her word choice added evidence to his assessment of mid-enhancement.  "You look like you are at a loss for words.  Did I come at wrong time?  Should I go?"  
"No-no."  Tony forced a smile.  He eased himself down into his chair.  He glanced toward the drawer where he'd placed his dispenser and recharging stand.  "Please.  Stay."  
Maijan's smile widened.  She looked very pleased that he'd asked her to stay.  If only that small request could be stretched to cover the rest of her life...
"I...  Am...  At a loss for words, actually."  He nodded his head.  The dispenser automatically recharged itself with an antedote to whatever charge has just been dispensed.  A safety feature in the case of incorrect dosage.  Should he use it?  Clear his head?  But that would leave him with just himself.  Would using a naked personality be better than one enhanced for a differently enhanced Maijan?  
"Why is that?  You've always been very adept in verbal communication.  In fact, one of the things I wanted to communicate with you before I departed was how much I learned from our relationship."  Maijan took a deep breath.  She rose up in her chair.  She arched slightly.  It was how Tony imagined she woke up in the morning.  Another flush went through him, making his skin burn.  His palms would be sweating now if he wasn't enhanced.  
"Quite a lot, in fact."  Maijan nodded to herself.  "I've enjoyed professionally fulfilling relationships in the past, as well as personally fulfilling ones.  But rarely have I encountered one where I found both.  I wanted to express my gratitude for that."  She bowed forward, her hair, unbound from its working ponytail, cascaded forward in sheets of sunset.  
"The feeling is quite mutual.  In fact...  I was hoping we could deepen the relationship."  
Maijan lifted her head.  She turned it to one side and looked at him with expectation.  
"You are...  The most fascinating person I have ever come to meet."  Tony released his uncertainty.  He went with the confidence, the energy he was feeling.  He felt his smile stretch itself, the charm tugging hard at both corners.  He allowed himself to feel the flush as if it were a sheen that made everything tighter, stronger, better.  "Working with you has been more stimulating than at any other time on this job.  Talking with you has been just as stimulating for other reasons."  
Maijan's eyes widened, then disappeared once more as she smiled back at him.  Was she giggling to herself?  Tony felt his heart skip.  
"Would it be possible to convince you to stay."  Tony leaned forward over the surface of his desk.  "On Earth?  With me?"  
Maijan smiled even more broadly.  She rolled her head to one side.  Her eyes met his.  Tony smile back.  She took a breath and straightened up in her chair.  
Tony blinked.  "No."  
"No.  Unfortunately, no."  Maijan leaned forward.  She extended one hand toward him.  She set her wrist on his desk, with her palm and fingers standing up, as if she didn't think she had the right to reach out and touche him.  
"Please...  Don't feel weird."  
"I, uh..."  Tony smiled back.  "As you know, weirdness is part of the package."  
Maijan laughed like she always did at Tony's jokes.  It was one reason why enjoyed her company so much.  
"Yes...  Yes, but..."  She frowned suddenly.  Maijan looked lost in thought.  "I took this job when I didn't hear back from the Mars Project.  It was a fall back thing, I thought, but..."  She raised her eyes.  Her stare was hard.  So hard Tony thought he might get bruises on his face or a cut lip if she didn't look away soon.  
Instead, she sat back up.  Her pleasant smile returned.  
"The Mars Project is a prior commitment.  A dream.  Something I must pursue."
"Of course."  Tony nodded.  He gave her a look of encouragement.  He felt fine.  He felt his accept of her decision as something good and true.  He knew later he would feel much, much worse.  But there was an enhancement for that.  
"Well..."  Maijan nodded.  "I think it might be time for me to go."  
"I guess so."  
They both stood.  Tony looked at Maijan.  Maijan looked back at him.  For a moment, they both swayed on their feet.  Tony to head around the table to be by her side.  Maijan in a reciprocal direction, it seemed to him.  
"Yes."  She held her hands out toward him, palms forward.  She seemed to be physically pushing herself toward the door.  "Time to leave.  And..."  The struggle returned to her face.  "Don't feel weird about...  This.  Don't."  
Tony parted his lips, another quip about to come out.  He felt his brain shift a bit and he nodded.  
"I won't.  I'll miss you.  But I won't feel weird."  
Maijan relaxed.  Her pleasant and focused expression returned.
"Good.  That makes me glad."  She gave him a small bow.  "Be well, Director." 
"And you, too, Project Manager."  Tony bowed back.  By the time he straightened up, Maijan had reached and opened the door.  She flashed more brilliance at him with her smile.  Waved again, from right to left, then left to right.  She disappeared around the corner of the door frame after that. 
Tony sat back down.  He still felt fine.  At least he'd asked, right?  He took a breath.  He had a lot of day left to work through.  Plans to approve.  And there was that problem with the space-bridge design they'd uncovered...
He looked at his open door.  A part of him, very muffled and distant, wondered what she meant about not feeling weird.  Not feeling weird at all, he turned to his screen and got back to work. 


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