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A Future We'd Like to See 1.65 - Memoria By Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I don't think I like the title for this, but I couldn't come up
with anything better... expect it to be changed on the FWLS
archive if you come a-knockin'.


A Future We'd Like to See 1.65 - Memoria
By Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne (Copyright 1994)

    "So you graduated high school?" he asked, eyeing my single-
sheet resume with big fonts.

    "Yes sir.  C average," I nodded.  He didn't approve of me,
man, I just KNEW it; maybe it was the threads.  I tried to wear
my classiest outfit.  I had the jacket, my rare STOMACH CONTENTS
WORLD TOUR shirt and the jeans with no holes over the knees.
Class all the way, but he wasn't buying it.

    "What makes you think you'd be a good addition to my
research team, Mr. Lopwagen?" the old fogey asked.

    "I crack good," I said.  "I only got a few skills, I know
sir, those being flipping burgers, watching movies, and cracking
code.  I saw your ad for talented reverse-engineering
programmers, and I figured it was the same thing as cracking."

    "Boy, right now I have the best money can buy working on
this project," he said.  "Why should I employ some teenager
scraped off the net on the basis of this resume alone?  May I add
that you misspelled resume on it."

    "Sir, really, just give me a chance," I begged.  "I'm
through with the fast food scene.  It ain't part of the PLAN, you
see, the plan to get me some edu and top the charts like Willy
Boy Doors.  I think I can get whatever it is you need done, all I
want is a college recommendation in return.  I don't even need
any money, just that signature on my 'app to get in and get my
ass up the ladder, you know?"

    "Aspiring," he said, nodding slowly.  "I like that.
However, I have no reason to believe that you have what I

    "Lemme get a shot at the program you need hacked to bits.
If I can't do jack with it, I'll go off and head back to
McSpackle's.  If I can, hire me.  Man, it's that simple, nothin'
to it.  You can't lose jack.  Sir."

    "I can lose time.  Time is very, very valuable to a man my
age," he said, carefully pulling himself out of his antique
chair, propped up by a silver cane.  "My time is worth a lot to
me.  I'll let you do your little test, but realize that I would
not do this for just anybody."

    "Yes sir.  You won't regret it, sir."

    "Mr. Rinhurst will do," he said.  "And I may call you?"

    "Whacker Cracker," I said, automatically spewing out my

    Mr. Rinhurst peered at me over his spectacles.

    "Rynard," I corrected.  "It's Rynard, really."


    This old fart was LOADED, man.  Old money.  He had antiques
up the zarkin' wazoo, overloaded on 20th century and 21st century
crud that I had seen in history texts before my schooling ended
on a semi-foul note.  Nothin' cool, though, like the Nintendos or
the gumball machines... just this plastic furniture and weird
paintings that reminded me of geometry class (which I failed
twice).  Why throw all that money away if you're not, like, gonna
get stuff that's cool?

    But hey, I can't complain, this guy could be my meal ticket
to success.  My life had been anything but productive and it was
startin' to drag.  I had my cracking and movies and bad food,
which was cool, and my friends and buds which were superiorly
cool, but my plan to be the ULTIMATE bad-ass coder was on hold
thanks to a lackluster schoolin'.

    Luckily, I could still work magic with interfaces 'n viruses
I had never seen before, and if I could keep the old magic around
a little longer, I'd be on the golden highway before you could

    "Who's this?" some snotty guy in a white lab coat asked,
looking up from his clipboard.  "I thought part of this deal was
to remain undisturbed during my research."

    "Mr. McDoole, this is Mr. Lopwagen.  He has... volunteered
to work on the project.  Rynard Lopwagen, Martin McDoole,
professor of computer science and interfaces at the University of
C'atel.  Martin McDoole, Rynard Lopwagen, ...amateur programmer."

    "Cracker," I corrected, extending a hand to high-five
McDooley.  He didn't return it.

    "Sir, you're joking, correct?" McDooley asked.  "I mean,
honestly, I know you seem to think this project requires more
help, but I certainly don't require..."

    "Bitchin' setup!" I commented, taking in the spread for the
first time.  Really wild gear; latest Macroware-assured deck, the
big black slab one that practically absorbed light.  McDooley had
it connected to a whole bunch of monitors, which I guess were
monitoring it.  A long cable ran from the box to some glass case,
with a cheap tablecloth draped over it, and a wire from that went
to a holoprojector unit; a BAD-ASS big one by the looks of it.

    "Yes, 'bitchin''," McDooley said.

    "All Mr. Lopwagen requests is to make an attempt at cracking
the code you have yet to crack," Rinhurst said.  "We're waiting,
Mr. Lopwagen."

    "Huh?  Oh, okay.  So, like, what's wrong with it?"

    "The files are in an unbreakable code," McDooley said,
reading off his clipboard.  "Nothing we've ever seen before.  My
first guess was that they were just gibberish, scrambled random
data as a decoy for whatever the doctor was hiding in his
computer.  Then we found the unit in the glass case and a
connecting socket that matched a non-standard port on the

    "This thing?" I asked, tapping the glass through the
tablecloth.  McDooley ran forward and grabbed my hand.

    "The case cannot be disturbed," he said.  "It could hold the
key to the encryption process.  If we could get it working, that
is.  There is no on switch."

    "What's in the case?" I asked, pulling off the tablecloth
before Marty had a chance to object.  "Whoa."

    "It's part of a human brain," the scientist replied, as I
gazed down at the pink and grey lump of lumps in the bowl under
glass.  Several wires ran in and out of it.  "Some of it is, at
least.  We can't identify the rest, nor can we get it awake."

    "Sounds like me on any monday morning.  Give it some coffee
and a danish and it'll be fine," I said.

    "No digestive system, even if you were not joking."

    "Well, whack it around a little.  Ma has to do that to me
sometimes.  HEY, Mr. Pus-Brain!  Wakey wakey!"

    I banged on the case a little, jarring the bowl of organs.
Dooley freaked, but didn't do very much to stop me.

    I bumped my hip on the case, and the bowl jarred.  There was
a little spark and the thing started pulsating.

    "See?" I said.  "Nothing to it.  Got any coffee?"

    "It's... it's alive!" McDooley said, gazing at it.

    "Cool, huh?"

    "Martin, please take care of Mr. Lopwagen for the day.  If
he makes any progress, let me know.  He'll be working with us
now," Mr. Rinhurst said.

    "You're kidding," me 'n Marty said at the same time.

    "I am not kidding.  Even if Mr. Lopwagen is of little use,
he'll be of SOME use.  Time is of the essence, gentlemen."

    "Fine with me," Marty said, scooping up some documents.
"Alright.  Lopwagen, you work on this stuff.  You'll be lucky if
you even find the on switch.  Me, I'll be studying my daily tests
in the other room."

    "Hey, whoa, wait.  What am I supposed to be doing?" I asked.

    "Crack the code," Rinhurst said, on his way out the door.
"It is what you do best, isn't it?"

    "Yeah, but--"

    "Best of luck," Martin said, before shutting the door behind
him.  Me 'n the brain alone.  Terrif.


    The deck wasn't wired for VR, which kind of bit because my
text skills were incredibly rusty.  I picked up textwork as a
hobby after a bud of mine got me into Net Will Eat Itself, but it
was never my element, yaknow?  Gimmie an objicon and a trace
router any day over an ASCII stream and a carriage return.

    The files were coded, obviously, but I didn't see any
repeaters.  No form.  It didn't follow any of the piddlyshit I
was used to dealing with.  For all I knew, it could be a bunch of
random letters.

    Something about that brain was weird, though.  We've got a
computer, linked to the brain that wouldn't die, linked to a
holovision set.  Someone had been watching too many bad science
fiction movies.

    Movies.  I could kick with a movie right now, so I flipped
on the holovision set.

    The piccy was large; the man in the empty space of holo was
about my size, and nicely detailed.  What I wouldn't give for
gear like this on weekly moviefests.  I changed the channel.

    "You tryin' to ignore me?" the image asked.  Weird show.  I
flipped to another channel, but the same thing was on.
Infomercial simulcast, maybe?

    "Hey," the image said.  "Cut that out.  It makes my viz go
all fuzzy.  Who're you?"

    Maybe the other actor was out of frame.  Although it was
like those cool pictures where the eyes follow you; he was
tracking my movement.

    "You in the leather jacket and concert shirt," he specified.


    "Yeah, you.  Who're you?"

    "Whacker Cracker.  I mean, Rynard.  Rynard Lopwagen."

    "Pleased to meat you, Whacker, name's Filbert.  Used to be
at least.  I'm dead now."


    "Yeah, dead.  Stiff, under the ground, bereft of life and
joining the bloody choir invisible.  See that brain?"

    I nodded, seeing it.

    "It's not really my brain.  Nice replica though.  I'm, or
rather this recording's just an interactive guide to my
autobiography.  Neat house, by the way.  How'd a kid like you
afford this?"

    "It wasn't me," I said.  "It was a guy called Rinhurst."

    "Rinhurst, Rinhurst... name doesn't ring a bell.  Okay, kid,
let's get some rules straight.  See the deck there?  I can decode
that.  It's an organic code, something I developed shortly before
buying the farm.  That's all I do, though.  I can't answer too
many background questions, I can't search the database or any
shit like that, I just decode 'n spew and try to keep you company
with my sparkling wit.  Neat, huh?"

    "You're an AI, aren't you?" I asked, pulling up a chair.

    "No.  AIs have fully recordable memories and easy brain
access.  I'm just an interactive recording.  I can remember YOU,
obviously, since if I couldn't I wouldn't be much of a
conversationalist.  That's it.  I decode, I talk to you, I
provide the key to the final log entry.  That's my purpose."

    "Hey, if you're dead, how're you talking?"

    "I'm not.  Bear with me, kid, this is a RECORDING.  Just how
I would have reacted to your queries if I WAS alive.  I'm dead
and very peacefully dead.  This isn't me."

    "If you're dead and not you then who are you?" I asked.

    "Filbert.  Used to be Filbert.  All I know is that I used to
be one of the original members of the Dirty Dozen black biotech
club.  Anything else you want to know about my past, you access
the autobiography.  It's encoded on the comp there.  I decode it
a page at a time for your reading pleasure.  You wanna start at
chapter one?  I hope so, because that's all it is; chapter one
and the last chapter.  You coping?"


    "Coping.  I have a preprogrammed warning that people'll
freak when they talk to a dead nonintelligent yet strangely
responsive living index for a book with two chapters."

    "Well... naah," I said.  "I can deal.  I've seen far weirder
on holo.  Bear with me if I ask naive questions, though."

    "I can deal too, then," Filbert said.  "Okay.  Chapter one
or two?"

    "Two?" I guessed.

    "Sorry man, chapter's locked."

    "I thought you could decode it."

    "I can.  Only chapter two's got double encoding.  The kind I
can read and the kind I can't."

    "So how do I read chapter two?  I hate watching movies and
not seeing the ending."

    "That's the gag, kid.  I've got a little quiz for you to
fill out when you wanna access chapter two.  If you can answer my
questions correctly, then I can unlock it.  Until then, nada.
It's a kind of game, I think I wanted to make bloody well sure
that whatever dork accesses my autobiography to find the secret
of immortality will bloody well understand it."


    "That's all I know.  Chapter one's the autobiography,
chapter two is the secret of immortality.  I know, how is a dead
guy immortal.  Don't ask me, kid, I only WORK here."

    I heard the plod-plod of sensible shoes approaching the
room.  I panicked and dove for the off switch on the holovision,
but missed and hit the floor instead.  I scrambled back to my
feet, only to see a very, very surprised Martin McDoole standing
there, clutch on his documents and printouts weakening.

    "Who... what... is that?!" he asked.

    "Err...  Marty, this is Filbert.  Filbert, Marty."

    "I can't see or hear him," Filbert said.  "You turned me on,
Whacker, I only deal with you.  Even if you told me who Marty
was, I'd never remember him."

    "What did you DO!?" Marty asked, dropping his precious data.
"What did you do!"

    "I... I just turned it on," I said.  "It started talking,
and I didn't wanna be impolite so I talked back."

    "Do you know who that IS?"

    "Yeah.  He's Filbert.  Who's Filbert?"

    "Come on, we've got to tell Mr. Rinhurst," Martin said,
grabbing my wrist and pulling.

    "'bye," I waved to the image of the dead doctor.

    "I'll be waiting here," he called after me.  "Not much else
to do, after all."


    "I think it's about time we filled Mr. Lopwagen in on the
project," Mr. Rinhurst said, lowering himself painfully into his
chair.  "Martin, do the honors."

    "Dirty Dozen black biotech doctor Filbert Whack-A-Doo,"
Martin said.

    "Neat name."

    "It's a fake name, we can't find his real one.  Filbert
there came down with Yttian Flu, the weak-death strain, and had
about two months to live.  He holed up in his office and dropped
his clients like hot potatoes.  Two months later, they find his
dead body, grinning like a maniac and the equipment in the main

    "Equipment which I immediately purchased," Rinhurst said,
"Knowing the nature of his work.  Filbert was seeking a way to
achieve immortality, a way to escape his death.  He died, but my
agents traced a holophone call to another member of the Dirty
Dozen shortly before his death, in which he claimed to have found
the secret of immortality."

    "Livin' forever.  Hey, I wouldn't put it past black
biotech," I said.  "I remember my cousin Jack had to have his
head reattached after a construction accident, and they did it.
I got to touch his scars.  It was cool."

    Rinhurst paused.  He contemplated this, then moved on.  "You
see, boy, I need that immortality.  I've sought it for years and
years.  Archaic Yttian herbal practices, long since outlawed by
that world's oppressive government.  Alien rituals and exercise
and good food.  Nothing has helped prevent the aging process, and
I fear I do not have many years left."

    Rinhurst got up, despite the cracking his bones made.  Why'd
he insist on getting in and out of that chair, anyway?  Did he
just want to show that he had enough life in him left to do it?

    "This project is to decode what I believe to be the
scientific journals of Filbert Whack-A-Doo, and find the secret.
Have you made any progress?"

    "Well, the recording said the immortality thing was in
chapter two, which was locked.  Oh, also that his autobiography
was organically coded on the computer."

    Rinhurst raised his eyebrows, and turned to McDoole.
"Funny, how your degrees and recommendations had you working for
weeks just to understand the nature of the hardware, and my boy
Lopwagen here has it up and running in an hour."

    "He was lucky," McDoole said.  "Sir, if you please, I'd like
to continue my research on this project now that the kid has it
turned on.  I think a systematic search of the data, now decoded,
could turn up the answer--"

    "Filbert said you can't do that," I said.  "He said he could
only decode a page at a time, and he couldn't do searches."

    "I don't care about the given user interface.  Sir, I think
I could work my way around it by controlling the organic

    "Could you do it without damaging it?" Rinhurst asked.  "If
the decoder is infected or affected in any way, it could destroy
my best chance at cheating death.  That would NOT please me."

    "I assure you that with more controlled tests, I could very
well crack the code after studying the organic unit.  If I--"

    "Why not just play by the rules?" I asked.

    McDoole looked daggers at me for interrupting, but I
continued anyway.  "See, all encrypted information is meant to be
un-crypted by SOMEONE, via a standard process of knowing the
password.  It looks kinda like this Filbert joeboy wanted people
to find out about immortality.  I mean, if he didn't, he wouldn't
have written it down in any digital or script way.  So, we just
do what the recordin' says and play by the rules, and figure it

    "What are the rules?" Rinhurst asked.

    "He said I gotta read the autobiography on the disk, then if
I can answer a pop quiz he'll unlock the secret."

    "There's no guarantee this course of action will work,"
McDoole said.  "Sir, it would be easier to get the information
directly than plowing through the rants of a near-death madman to
play quiz show.  I am confident that by studying the readings I
have taken so far, I can uncode that secret."

    "Martin, you do that," Rinhurst said.

    McDoole brightened up instantly, but did not smile.  "Thank
you, sir.  You won't regret it."

    "Rynard, you get reading," Rinhurst said.

    "What?" McDoole asked.  "But I thought..."

    "Whoever can get to the secret of eternal life first wins,"
Rinhurst said.  "Although really you're both going to be paid.
McDoole in grants and Lopwagen in recommendations.  So please, no
competition.  Simply work as fast as you can.  Time is of the

    McDoole nodded, and stepped out of the room, heading for his
stacks of printout at the end of the hall.

    "Don't just sit there, boy," Rinhurst said.  "Go read."

    "Yes sir," I said, fumbling my way out of the chair and for
the door.


    "Why'd you write this, anyway?" I asked the hologram.

    "Hmm?" the hologram asked, breaking his hour-long state of
perfect stillness.  "I don't know.  Well, I mean I KNOW, but *I*
don't know.  You know how it is.  I wish I would have equipped me
with a better metaphor styler.  This is the pits."

    "Did you really bite the head off a rat at a Stomach
Contents concert?" I asked, tapping the text-filled screen.

    "If it's in there, I did," Filbert said.  "I don't remember
it as a recording, but yeah, I could see myself doing that.  I'm
very spontaneous."

    "Kinda like me," I said.  "Well, kinda.  I dig fun and
games, but really I've got plans.  Long thought out plans."

    "Really?  Namely?"

    "I'm gonna rock the software world.  I got ideas, man, game
AND application ideas.  Like William Doors, when Macroware was
originally founded.  I just need to know how to code."

    "Sounds okay, like it'll pull in the bills," Filbert said.


    "So you wanna be rich?"

    "Yes.  No," I said.  "Actually, the money doesn't matter.  I
just want a lot of people to use these programs I've got
speculated, you know?  Make an IMPACT.  Get some shock waves out
there in sales before kickin' off."

    "If you can unlock this secret I've got, you could last a
long time indeed," Filbert said.

    "What is the secret?"

    Filbert laughed.  "Hey, Whacker Cracker buddy, if I KNEW I'd
tell you.  But I ain't gonna know until you know me.  You read up
my autobiography, I'll give you the third degree later and then
we'll talk immortality."

    "Okay," I said, returning to the text.  Man, Filbert rocked
in his days.  He was kinda like me; metalhead without a cause,
so-so in school, but he had this thing for the Frankenstein deal.
Livin' it up socially wherever he could.

    "Why'd you go biotech?" I asked.

    "I don't know," Filbert said.  "You tell me.  You know more
about me than I do."

    "Yeah, but you're still YOU.  You react the same.  You think
you'd like biotech?"

    "Probably.  Sounds like fun.  You get to gut people and
rearrange them and augment.  I could see myself doing that, at
least to pass the time."

    "Pulls in the money too, right?"

    "I didn't value money," Filbert said.  "I didn't even value
my work.  I just did what I did.  Read on, okay?  I can only
answer so much, and the rest is right there."

    "Hey, just asking a simple question."

    "I know.  Wish I could help more."

    "What's it like?" I asked.  "You know... being an undead

    "It's like being an undead recording," Filbert said.  "You
know, I really gotta thank myself for not letting me go into the
philosophy behind being a mental duplication.  I'd go nuts if I
had to comprehend what I was.  I am what I am and that's all that
I am.  I'm Filbert the doctor man."


    "Whatever," Filbert said.  "Hey, you want to hear a cool bit
of philosophy?  It's embedded deep into my personality, so I can
access it fine.  It's semi-relevant."


    "See, the trick is that you're supposed to seek to
understand others, and use that to understand humanity.  Help
people out by figuring out what they NEED, not what they want.  A
lot of people run around trying to figure themselves out, which
is dumb, because if you could see what you really were you'd go

    "Why is understanding yourself insanity?"

    "Because you wouldn't like what you see," Filbert said.
"Ego's fragile.  Not a BAD thing to have, provided you keep it in
check.  But knowing what's really real will shatter that ego and
make you an unhappy camper.  I let the other people worry about
me and then I'd worry about other people.  Enough worry to go
around for everybody to be worried about without dumping more of
it on myself.  Does that help?"

    "Not really, but thanks," I said.

    "Hey, I tried," Filbert shrugged.  "Best I can do at the


    "Hey," McDoole said, knocking on the door frame.

    I looked up from Filbert : The High School Years, and waved
to the scientist.  I returned to reading.

    "I was wondering... Lopwagen, right?" he asked.  "Can you
print out the scientific journals stored there?  I'm looking for
clues to the organic engine."

    "It's not a scientific journal," I said.  "Just an
autobiography.  Man, Filbert, you ROCKED."

    "Thanks," Filbert said.

    "Really.  Scope this, Marty.  This boy ditched outta high
school and started 'prenticing under the masters.  He managed to
save someone's life by replacing a human heart on his FIRST DAY,
with some twisted new technique nobody had tried before involving
a winch.  That's impact waves, man, serious impact waves."

    "Wasn't much," Filbert stated.

    "He was a genius, yes," Martin said.  "You say there's no
scientific data in there at all?  I thought you said this was an
accounting of his efforts."

    "It is.  Just... not that stuff.  He wants us to understand
him as a person, not a slew of theories and formulas."

    "Bingo!" Filbert said.  "That's the key.  You understand me
fully, you'll be able to understand the secret of immortality.
That's why the pop quiz, yousee."

    "What good is it without the data?" Martin asked.  "How does
he expect to pass his knowledge down after death if he doesn't
give up his techniques for modifying the human body?"

    "He didn't really care for his work, from what I'm reading,"
I said.  "Look here.  He says he didn't get why the doctor was so
amazed at his heart transplant.  He didn't think it was
important.  But then he goes on for three pages about later that
night when the doctor took him for a celebratory night on the
town, the doc got smashed and talked about his dead dog for five

    "How boring," Martin said.

    "It's a good read.  This guy's pretty normal, just like you
and me, but he knows where the esophagus is supposed to go and

    "I was quite good at it, I think," Filbert said.  "Though
you're right, people are more important."

    "Why is that?" I asked, turning away from the screen.  "I
mean, you know I dig impact waves, and you made a lot of them and
didn't seem to mind.  You like to tell stories about people and
places and things, not techniques and success."

    "Impact waves are subjective.  What one man values, another
will think is yesterday's dried up turds.  Why do you think that
success has to be in your job?"

    "Isn't it?" I asked.  "I mean, look at William Doors.  He's
the most successful man alive, man, he made waves that'll last
for eons and eons.  He's practically immortal that way."

    "So he made some programs," Filbert said.  "What do you know
of him as a person?  What's his favorite ice cream flavor?  Did
he cry when Old Yeller died?  Does he like sex nasty or nice?"

    "I don't know."

    "And neither do I.  Facts and figures yes, somewhere in my
autobiography, but I never had much of a feeling for William
Doors as a person.  Thus, he doesn't affect me."

    "Could you two please stop waxing philosophical and get to
work?" Martin said.  "If my data can't get that cracked, you need
to try to bargain with this cheeseball projection."

    "Gotta get back to reading," I told Filbert.  "Sorry."

    "No prob," Filbert said.  "Chat anytime."


    It was later that night when I read the line.

    "Alright, Filbert, what's the meaning of this?" I asked,
pointing to the screen.


    "You've got sixteen pages dedicated to some girl who you
ditched in favor of a medical job on a distant planet.  Then you
claim she was your biggest success.  How is dropping her like a
hot potato success?  I could see marrying and having kids
successful, but not THIS."

    "What'd I say about her?"

    "That you left her."

    "No, I mean before that.  What'd we do together?"

    "Walks on the beach, long nights talking, a few cry ins.

    "Sounds enjoyable," Filbert said.  "Did I make a difference
in her life?"

    "Well, you did save her little sister from dying, but there
isn't much emotion attached to that.  You go on for a page about
comforting her after the incident, though, and talking to her
about some other guy and then you take off and never see her

    "Sounds me.  Look, any schmuck can rip people apart and glue
'em together again.  A robot could do that.  A robot, however,
can't help you when you're down or take you to a movie or even
ask you how you're feeling.  You're looking at this stupid term
'success' in the wrong way.  You want to go and make money
selling software to everybody and their dog."

    "I don't mind if I don't make money."

    "But you want to sell to everybody and their dog."

    "Sure.  I mean, what's the use in doing something if only a
few people see it?"

    "You're not getting this at all, then," Filbert said.
"You're miles away from the key at this point.  If you sell one
copy or one million, and nobody really changes, you didn't do
anything.  Let me tell you a story, kid."

    Filbert paused.

    "Damn," he cursed.  "I had a perfect story, and I can't
access it because of this silly read-only no-search block.  I'd
be frustrated if that was possible.  Lemme try to explain it
without past knowledge.  Hypothesis.  Let's say some girl was
months away from death, and you had the power to heal her.  This
girl and you, you could have a love thing going that neither of
you would forget until the end of time, as long as she could
stick around.  However, if you did heal her, you'd never see her
again, and she'd be destined never to fall in love.  She'd live,
but without the possibility of what the two of you could have
experienced.  Do you love her or heal her?"

    "Heal her, so she can live out her days."

    "You could if you wanted to, but you'd have done nothing for
her.  You could have let her fill out her days in unparalleled
joy, impacting harder than anything in an extended dayset.
Everybody dies sometime, Whacker, we just need to make sure we
die happy, and make others happy in return.  What's better, a
short, bliss-filled existence or a long, drawn out spiral to the

    "What does this have to do with success?"

    "Metaphors.  I need a better metaphor styler.  I valued them
so much in life, I can't believe I didn't work on one for my
recording," Filbert complained.  "It's just this, kid.  You can
sell your little programs all you want.  But it's not a success
until one person, just one person sees your program and is moved
by it, changing their beliefs or letting them understand life a
little more, or comforting them when it's important.  One's all
it takes, a million is great, but one is enough for a success.
That's my point."

    "I don't understand."

    "Then keep reading, nitwit," Filbert said.  "You will soon
enough.  You had better, if you want my precious life after death


    Filbert had a long, wildly adventurous life.  There were the
organ transplants and near death bring-backs, but these were side
notes.  He went into great detail about his friends, about total
strangers he talked to on the street, and about the places he had
seen and how he felt about them.

    The autobiography read like some kinda novel.  It sunk deep
into thought and didn't spew out history facts and junk.  He felt
a lot of things, and wrote all of it down.

    "Okay, I'm near where you get the flu," I said.  "I don't
know if you remember yourself, but lemme assure you, you were

    "Glad to hear it," Filbert said.

    "I think I get what you were saying earlier about
understanding other people," I said.  "I mean, like by now I know
you better than I know myself."

    "As it should be."

    "Is that why you wrote this?" I asked.  "So I'd know you?
But what would that accomplish?  You obviously didn't write it
just so I could take a test and get the formula for eternal

    "What makes you say that?"

    "Dude, I've been in high school.  They're GREAT at spamming
you with facts 'n stuff to test you on later.  This stuff, this
isn't stuff to be memorized and recited, it's stuff to be KNOWN.
Comprehended.  I don't think you're gonna be asking me about the
color of your dog's hair or the name of your first lay, facts and
figures.  You're gonna be asking me about what you are to see if
I know you well enough to have earned the secret."

    "I can't say if you're right or wrong, you know."

    "I know I'm right," I said.  "I know you, and you'd do
something just like that.  Whoa.  Wait.  Something's wrong."


    "There isn't any more," I said.  "You contract the flu,
and... it stops."

    "Of course it was.  I died."

    "Yeah, but you had two months, man.  What were you doing
during those two months?  Why isn't it here?"

    "Everything after that isn't important.  I stopped living
and started living beyond life at that point," Filbert said.
"You've read all of chapter one.  Are you ready for the test?"

    I paused.  Was I?  I had to be.  If I wasn't ready now, I
never would be.

    "Hang on, lemme go get the others," I said.


    "It's not going to work," McDoole said.  "Scientists like
this flake like to guard their secrets.  He'd never let you read
a book and take a quiz and get the answer.  That's too easy."

    "It wasn't easy," I said.  "You don't scan the facts and
search, you're supposed to read the whole thing and ingest so
you'll be ready for... whatever it is."

    "Are you ready?" Rinhurst asked.  "Boy, if you can get that
chapter open and find me the formula for eternal life, you can go
to the Yttian Institute of Technology.  My recommendation will
carry you all the way to the end of that plan you have.  You'll
be successful beyond your wildest dreams."

    "Filbert, open chapter two," I said.

    "I'm going to ask you three questions," Filbert said.  "You
mung any, I shut down and someone else is going to have to try
this all over again.  Hope you win, kid, I think I would have
approved of you knowing this."

    "Go for it," I nodded.

    "Why was the doctor's story of the dead dog important?" he

    "You saw it as the doctor's first try at opening himself up
to others," I said.  "You recognized his effort, even if he was
drunk at the time, and encouraged it.  The doctor stopped being
cold to his patients after that, and warmed up to them, being a
humanitarian of sorts.  You made a difference in his life."

    "Correct," Filbert nodded.  "Okay. Even though I left the
one love of my life behind, why didn't I feel any regret?"

    "Simple," I said, smiling.  "You knew she'd be better off
with someone else.  She already had her eyes set on a better man
than you thought you were, and getting out of the way would
ensure her a happy lifetime with him.  You doublechecked
afterwards and saw the wedding record.  You gave her up so she'd
be happy."

    "Bing.  One last question," Filbert said.  "Knowing how much
I treasure conversation, and understanding people, and how one
person can make such a difference, such an impact wave in the
life of another, an impact wave for the best... what is the
secret of immortality?"

    "What?" McDoole asked.  "But... that's what we're trying to
unlock!  How can he answer that?  It's impossible!"

    "He can't hear you," I informed McDoole.  "Don't worry.  I
know this."

    "You do?" Rinhurst asked.

    "Of course.  It's obvious.  He set out this equipment, this
autobiography that couldn't be skipped around.  A story you had
to read through, forced to read comprehensively.  He wanted me to
understand what he was and what he valued, to know him inside and
out.  That's how you're going to live forever, Filbert, isn't it?
Not through a miracle drug or biotech process, or as a semi-alive
recording hologram, but in the memories of others.  You live in
my mind through your own words and ideas.  You live in the memory
of that girl you let go, and the doctor that opened up to you,
and the x-amount of other people you've come in contact with.
You'll live on in all of us, and when we die the memories we had
will be transmitted by our own impact waves, just going on and on
until the end."

    "Correct," Filbert said.  "Congrads, Whacker Cracker.  You
did well.  Glad to know my life is in good hands.  Be seeing you,
man," he said, flashing a quick salute and vanishing from sight.

    Rinhurst stood there, cane trembling somewhat.  McDoole
remained motionless, probably not sure if he should like explode
or just collapse where he was standing.

    "Failure," McDoole said.  "Complete and total failure.  I
TOLD you Filbert earned his last name for good reason, Mr.
Rinhurst.  This isn't any good for you at all."

    "I was worth a try," Rinhurst sighed.  "There will be other
projects.  The real secret lies out there somewhere, not this
memory mumbo-jumbo.  I can cheat death; it will just take time to
find the loophole.  In the meantime, I'd like to thank you both
for working on this project.  I have a letter of recommendation
for you to YIT, Mr. Lopwagen, if you'll just follow me to my

    "No thanks," I found myself saying.  "I don't think I'm
gonna need it.  Thanks anyway, though.  I think I'll head home
now, ma's gonna pitch a fit when she finds out where I've been
over the last few days."

    I paused on my way out the door.  I thought occurred to me.

    "I think I'm gonna write a book," I said.  "Yeah.  A book
would be cool.  Goodbye, Mr. Rinhurst."

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