Save the Date, part 2

M.N. Julia Janson ran a clean operating suite, and everyone knew it. Still, just like all of her colleagues, she started each day at the MTC by going through a decontamination process that included a check of her vital signs. Heart rate: normal. Weight: down a few ounces. Emotional state: calm. 

Her pre-op nutritional shake would include extra calories today to bring her weight back into balance and the usual blend of flow-state meds to put her into an even more Zenlike state so that she could transfer memories faster and more efficiently.  Before she left decom, she was swathed in a full face and body “mask” made of special light particles which would help protect her from any errant memories and then escorted to her ER by a techbot. 

Julia had her own ritual for keeping transfers clean, walking into the OR and always going straight to the crystal box that held the brain. The boxes were pristine; the brain was revered for the knowledge it still held even after its host had died.  The nurses never knew the name of the original host, although it often became apparent during the transfers; they’d been trained to keep a psychological barrier between themselves and their patients, another layer of protection from memories looking for a new host. Although she was not allowed to call the brain by name, she still addressed it out of respect for life, always slightly bowing in front of it, holding her hands pressed together as she did when starting and ending a new yoga session.  She knew the old phrase “Namaste” meant “I bow to the divine in you,” and that’s what she did at the beginning of each transfer. 

“Hello, brain,” she said. “I’m M.N. Julia Janson, and I’m here to transfer your specialized knowledge today. You’re here because you agreed to be a brain donor, and I’m here to facilitate your memory donation. You will not feel any pain during the procedure because all I am doing is moving your thoughts from one place to another. At the end of the day, the transfer will be complete, and you’ll finally be able to hibernate.  Any questions?”

The brains never answered. She didn’t know if they could hear her or not, but it always made her feel better about her work when she remembered that these brains had been tagged for donation by their original owners and that she was doing no harm, just saving precious knowledge that would otherwise be lost.  She was doing the opposite of harm; she was doing quite good; something that few others could do or wanted to do.

Julia reached for her hourglass, shaking it gently; some MN’s preferred a digital screen set precisely with hour, minute, second, but she liked her old-fashioned hourglass filled with recycled pink sand; she flips it over, knowing that she now has less than 8 hours to complete her work. Two final steps would complete her ritual; activating the emergency alarm within the bracelet that monitored her blood pressure and heart rate during her operations and turning on the no-sound; an audio “speaker” that absorbed noise instead of playing it.

The OR was surrounded in silence; nothing to disrupt her personal flow during the transfer and nothing to distract the brain from doing what it had legally and voluntarily been placed right here to do. Next, she pulled up a rainbow light, which lit up the room in an arc that went from one side to the other. This was where she’d do her work, first sending a spark signal to the brain to open up the transfer, then settling into a zone where she’d swipe her hand across the rainbow, which was lit up with an assortment of words, images, letters, numbers, audio files, and more.  She quickly sorted out memories by essentials and not, streaming them into their own areas: programming knowledge, people skills, daily rituals, old passcodes, and more. 

Today’s streaming was going smoothly; she was in a comfortable groove.  Due to her experience, she had gotten good at split thinking; often being able to think about her own personal projects while neatly facilitating and organizing the memories of another. Today, she was thinking about her painting and how she wanted to create a big grassy area with a huge blue sky…somewhere serene and calm. Perhaps she’d paint in a little bird or two…

That’s when she hit the first glitch, a memory gap. She slowed her speed, rewound the last bit of memory to see if she had missed what had come just before the gap.  Sometimes she could look back and then forward and intuit the missing piece, which she could cover with what was called a commonality, a piece of information that wasn’t crucial. 

Gaps could be caused by the use of illegal drugs, by traumatic situations, or sometimes, just from humans being forgetful.  To cover the gap, she would wind forward, using her training in psychiatry and intuition to make a “best guess” of what needed to be filled in.  An easy gap would be someone forgetting a name or getting lost; those were easily repaired with input from the technical bot. 

And it looked like this gap was simple: the programmer had forgotten the name of the street he lived on as a child.

“Techbot,” said Julia.  “Brain’s home address, age 16.”  The tech had data about the brain loaded from the original donation packet, which included pages of information precisely for this type of situation. Even if the information hadn’t been recorded, there were often enough connecting points between the packet and the universal database that information like this…as simple as a street name…could be recovered almost instantaneously.

Julia glanced over at the tech bot screen and got the insertion point ready; she liked to keep the transfers moving along smoothly and took great pride in finishing all of her transfers in less than 7 hours a day, rarely getting into a place where the brain was counting down to its final moments of life.  Every transfer had to be completed in less than 8 hours because the brain could only stay stable for that many hours; it was still a cell-based organism.  Memory transfer had been studied and verified to be safe…but only within an 8-hour time period.  Every minute after 8 hours, the brain’s cells became corrupt, no longer working in concert with each other to facilitate transfer but instead turning against each other. By hour 9, the brain would die a painful death, a precious asset wasted.  

She glanced over at the techbot, which would display the answer on a screen that was approximately at Julia’s eye-level. But today, instead of displaying the information, the techbot whispered something.  And this was more disturbing to Julia than the memory gap. Because tech bots hadn't been programmed to speak since the violent end of the robot-human wars. 

 


Save the Date, Part 3

"Save the date," whispered the techbot. The invitation thought Julia.  

Julia felt her heart rate begin to accelerate; she immediately centered herself: her hours of studying yoga, meditation and mindfulness had prepared her well for this type of moment.  If she registered with a spike in heart rate, her OR would be shut down immediately. She listened for the chime that the supervisory board would sound if they suspected an aberration, contamination.  She heard neither.  

Technically, she should end the transfer and report the tech immediately.  But if she did it, she'd put the transfer in jeopardy and risk losing the brain. When forced to choose between a treaty mandate and a brain, she would always choose one over the other. 

Best to save the brain; save the date, she decided. The supervisory board had missed the tech bot's whisper; tech bots had no human features, no mouth to issue words, and Julia had turned the no-sound on at the beginning of her transfer.  

The tech bot flashed the answer on its screen: “827 Flintrock Drive."  Flintrock; like from her dream the night before.  Flintrock, a road. She'd have to investigate later. She moved the transfer forward with the information, glad to have the transfer back underway. 

Her screen was filled with a set of unfamiliar symbols, not quite letters, not quite numbers, not quite images.  This brain had apparently built an extra security level around its data; she’d seen similar things before from programmer donors.  Another code to crack; another puzzle to solve; another moment lost to the clock.  

 

 


Save the Date, Part 3

"Save the date," whispered the techbot. The invitation thought Julia.  

Julia felt her heart rate begin to accelerate; she immediately centered herself: her hours of studying yoga, meditation and mindfulness had prepared her well for this type of moment.  If she registered with a spike in heart rate, her OR would be shut down immediately. She listened for the chime that the supervisory board would sound if they suspected an aberration, contamination.  She heard neither.  

Technically, she should end the transfer and report the tech immediately.  But if she did it, she'd put the transfer in jeopardy and risk losing the brain. When forced to choose between a treaty mandate and a brain, she would always choose one over the other. 

Best to save the brain; save the date, she decided. The supervisory board had missed the tech bot's whisper; tech bots had no human features, no mouth to issue words, and Julia had turned the no-sound on at the beginning of her transfer.  

The tech bot flashed the answer on its screen: “827 Flintrock Drive."  Flintrock; like from her dream the night before.  Flintrock, a road. She'd have to investigate later. She moved the transfer forward with the information, picking up speed again, data flying across her rainbow.  And then she hit another gap. 

Her screen was filled with a set of unfamiliar symbols, not quite letters, not quite numbers, not quite images.  This brain had apparently built an extra security level around its data; she’d seen similar things before from programmer donors.  Another code to crack; another puzzle to solve; another moment lost to the clock. Julia paused the transfer and ordered the techbot to scan the code, run it through the code-breaking algorithm.

Previous brains had given up secrets that could now be used to unencrypt protective devices like this one. But not this time. This brain had developed something new.  

 


Save the Date, Part 4

Julia has one objective today: she wants to keep her brain alive. 

Technically, it’s not her brain; it’s the donor brain she’ll be caring for during the memory transfer process of knowledge and expertise from the former host to a knowledge port. Over the past week, two of the brains at the People Bank were diagnosed with viruses that shut down their transfers: without a complete transfer in under eight hours, the brains died a painful death instead of going into peaceful hibernation. For every brain that died, years of lifesaving knowledge died along with it.

The Memory Transfer Center was on high-alert, rocked by what felt scandalous, and incident commander assigned to oversee all of the daily transfers. 

And that’s why she wanted to keep her brain alive. At least one of the reasons.

There are brains with minimal gaps that are easy to cover, where she can transfer memories almost like a robot would, efficiently and quickly. There are brains so ransacked by trauma that there are large holes in the memory tissue; for those brains, she has to use her best intuition of where to tread lightly and where to insert prefabricated better days. 

And then there are the rebel brains, the most valued because they belonged to the best and brightest. These are the brains loaded with hidden codes that have to be unscrambled before transfers can proceed; the brains with triggers set at different points that allow memory bits to escape and search for a new host; brains who want to choose their new hosts or die preventing memory transfer to any host of whom they do not approve.  

In today’s world, knowledge is the new currency, the most precious asset of all.

She needs this type of brain to assist her in accomplishing her goals but to do so, she needs a brain that is willing to work with her and not against her.

And that’s why she always starts every session by greeting the brain.


Save the Date, Part 5

Julia's memory transfer is stalled, even as the sands of time whisper away into the bottom of the hourglass. She has one hour left to decide what to do.  She can keep trying to break the code and potentially run out of time.  She can try to apply a patch over the code, potentially rendering a disabled memory for the next recipient.  

She chooses neither. 

Instead, she decides to ask the brain to help her.  She's never tried this before; this is breaking a psychological barrier that they are never supposed to cross; this could lead to an undue familiarity with the brain.  She will have to do it all silently because incident command can't know what she's doing, and if it works, she's going to have to ask the brain to help her cover up what she's just done, by providing her with a way to legitimately break the code.  

Incident command can monitor her heart rate but they can't read her mind; they can keep her locked away at the MTC but they can't lock away her thoughts.  

"I can give you peace," she says. "I can free you from pain but I need you to help me unlock the code. We can work together to make things better for you."

She watches the code on the screen and runs her hand across the rainbow, studying all of the images on the screen, hoping for help from the brain, reorganizing the images in different ways, seeking a way to break the code herself.  She flips images horizontally, vertically, shifting them around, recognizing that this is not a language: this is a picture.

She looks for common connections among the pieces of code, pulling them together by shapes and colors, revealing a memory of a horrible death, an old-fashioned transport vehicle crashing into a wall, bursting into flames, the metal twisting in the heat of the fire, screams that sounded human, a tragic and horrific loss of life.  She's unfortunately witnessed more horrific memories than this one, and she knows how to fix it; she rearranges the pixels to have the car swerve to miss the wall.

Everyone is now saved, including the brain. The transfer is complete, and Julia is released to go home, wondering if the brain helped her or she helped herself. 

 


Save the Date, Part 6 or 7

Receiving a brain transfer was a highly coveted honor, for which people could apply and receive an instant no or a possibility. If you were a possibility, you would undergo many tests, and if you were selected, you would become one of the wealthiest-kind, with not only a wealth of knowledge but an unlimited supply of everything you’d ever need, including the freedom to do whatever you needed to improve the lives of all kinds. 

Julia wanted to be a recipient.  Being a M.N. was a highly specialized skill that required intuition, resilience, a calm demeanor and the ability to be non-reactive and non-judgmental to some of the memories that could come up during the transfer.  Although it had moments of fulfillment, it also had no freedom because the best M.N.’s were rare, highly valued in their own oppressive sort of way, gainfully employed until they either broke down or burned out, failing to complete transfers within the 8-hour time period. 

She applied; she knew that she would likely be turned down.  And she was; receiving an instant no, forcing herself to not register her disappointment and beginning to daydream about how she’d leave the memory nurse profession one day; how it would be her own decision and how she wouldn’t be forced to burnout, breakdown or bankrupt.    

The memory nurses didn’t have much of a social life; they were too valuable to move about in the outside world. They were encouraged, however, to take virtual classes online. The purpose of the classes was to provide a social outlet, keep their minds sharp, and provide relaxation and respite from the demanding and draining work that they did during their transfer shifts. Right now, Julia was signed up for a painting class with four other memory nurses, one from her area and two from a different section of the transfer facility.  They were not allowed to talk about their work because they were encouraged to find a balance between their work and their lives. So although they had much In common, in some ways, they were mostly strangers. 


Save the Date, Part Something

I'm not sure how this story is going to play out yet, so I'm publishing pieces of it.  I wrote the ending yesterday (yay!) but I'm not sure how to get there yet.

The brains were talking to her. There was still too much static for her to make out the messages but she felt like they’d find a way to communicate with her soon.  For now, she couldn’t let anyone know.

If she told her supervisors, they’d take her out of her operating room and try to wipe her own brain clean. They’d lost several memory nurses during errant memory transfers in the early days so now the supervisors were very strict about quizzing Julia and her colleagues when they came in each morning and when they left at night. They were weighed when they arrived each morning and before they left each night; any extra weight over a few ounces might mean that they were harboring an escaped memory, burrowing its’ way into a brain, looking for a new host.

Julia was a little bit afraid that she was losing her mind but she didn’t believe that was true. She really thought that the brains were talking to her; it was just that she couldn’t yet hear what they were saying. Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen if she did lose her mind? Being a memory nurse was a socially isolated life with little freedom.

And Julia wasn’t sure if she agreed with the ethics of memory transfer, even though she wanted to be a transfer recipient more than anything.  But her application had been denied immediately; she was too valuable to the council as an M.N., and she was one of the best ones out there. Her transfers were always clean; she had an intuition about overcoming memory gaps that allowed her to fill them efficiently. And she always finished her transfers under the time limit, which allowed “her” brains to fall into a long peaceful sleep instead of the alternative.

She needed to keep transferring memories until the static cleared and she could hear the messages. A tech bot escorted her to her OR. Maybe today would be the day.


Save the Date, Part Something

Her transfer that day felt seamless, uncomplicated.  She felt from the images she saw that this person had been bright enough for a memory transfer but not old enough for a lot of memories. She scrolled past early days, school memories, transport code (ah, that was it!), and a couple of romantic relationships, imbibed with what appeared to be equal feelings of love and lust, which seemed to crowd out most of the rest. 

Unlike her other recent transfers, Julia felt no desperation from this brain; in fact, it almost seemed to be cooperating with her, almost as if they were dancing to the same song or having a conversation on a mutually-interesting conversation. With no memory gaps to cover and a lesser amount of knowledge to transfer, Julia finished the transfer in a record six hours and thirty-three minutes.  She’d definitely make her art class tonight, giving her a chance to see Mitzi's next painting, a preview of what was about to happen for her.  

Except she wouldn’t.

During her decontamination process, the incident commander activated a series of flashing lights and hit the chime.  Mitzi was dealing with an escaped memory. The council had protocols in place for such events; they’d used a transferred brain to develop a fail-proof solution.  However, it meant that the MN conducting the transfer would be removed. Julia suspected that she would be sent in to save the brain, and she was correct.  

Julia knew that when a new memory nurse was transferred into an OR that it meant that the brain transfer had about a 25% chance of being completed in time. First, there was the delay caused by capturing the memory and cleaning the OR.  Second, each memory nurse needed time to develop a “feel” for the brain they were transferring, which was usually easier at the beginning of the transfer instead of in the middle.  Julia liked to think of the beginning of the process as small talk; soft questions; not the horror you could potentially encounter as you began to hit memory gaps. 

Julia's decontamination was expedited and she was exported to Mitzi's OR.  

Julia had no time to greet the brain or go through any of her rituals.   

Instead, she picked up the transfer where Mitzi had left it, swiping through education, knowledge, skills, training, mentoring, estimating that the transfer was 75% complete, giving her an excellent chance to save the brain.  As soon as she felt confident, she hit her first memory gap, a completely empty space in the brain, revealing nothing, seemingly not locked up with complex code or hidden trap door.  Just a vast emptiness. 

With the clock ticking, Julia didn’t have time to go in deeper, so she built a bridge over the gap, which the transfer recipient would have to deal with by going to therapy in the future.  Therapy was better than a painful death, thought Julia, and then she hit a second blank space in the brain, and she knew that a second bridge would be too much, almost rendering the recipient incapable of a complete thought, which she believed was almost the same as death. 

With 20 minutes remaining, Julia refused to give up yet.  She would have to go in deeper to the brain; she would have to enter its darkness. She could not be afraid of what she would find. She cast rainbow light into the cavern and mentally entered the space, which was cool and dark. She heard water dripping as she walked forward, each drop echoing in the darkness. In the distance, she saw a dim light, flickering on and off, and she walked toward the light, which grew more warmer and more welcoming with each step she took.  

And that's when she saw the group of people sitting around the campfire. At first, she thought that the brain must have a fear of fires or that something bad was about to transpire.  But then she saw a familiar face.  Mitzi was somehow in this brain's memory, but how did she get here? And who were the other men and women around the campfire? 

Mitzi stood up, extended her hands, and Julia went to her.  This had been Mitzi's transfer; perhaps her friend could help cover the vast darkness of the brain. "We don't have much time," said Mitzi. "Thank you for accepting the invitation."

"This is Flintrock?" Julia looked around the cave.  "I thought it was a street?"

"It's an old computer program," explained one of the women. "A launching tool for a company called Adobe. Flintrock is now the codeword for launching our program against memory transfers."  

"Who is we?" 

"We are all of the brains in limbo," said one of the male figures. "None of us ever agreed to have our knowledge transferred to hosts not of our choosing.  We need memory transfer nurses to stop the unethical process of memory transfers and to set us free." 

"But how?" asked Julia.  "You...the brains are already...brains?"

"We need bodies," said a female, very matter-of-factly. "With brains wiped clean so that we can transfer into them." 

"I only transfer from brains," said Julia. "And I have no access to bodies." 

"We already have the bodies," said another man. "We just need someone who can transfer our memories to them.  We need memory transfer nurses who can help us.  Mitzi has already decided to accept, and we hope you will as well." 

"But your memories have already been transferred," said Julia.  "How can they be transferred again?"

"How can we be having this conversation?" asked one of the brains.  "Yes, you copied our memories, but you didn't wipe our brains clean. We are all still alive, and once we discovered this amongst ourselves, we started planning what we could do next." 

"it's freedom," said Mitzi.  "We can choose wherever we want to live.  We can do whatever we want to do. We can be social and we can have friends.  Isn't that what you want more than anything?" 

"How did you find out?" Julia asked her friend. 

"I heard the brains talking to me," said Mitzi.  "At first, I thought I was losing my mind.  But then, I had the dream, and then I painted the picture. And then I unlocked the secret code with a password that was revealed to me during a memory transfer." 

"But how are you down here now," asked Julia.  "Your transfer just got shut down.  You're upstairs with incident command."

"Or so it seems," said Mitzi.  "This was all arranged today.  The easy transfer for you to finish first.  The incomplete transfer for me so that you could come here and meet the brains.  We are the first and second memory nurses to be invited; we are pioneers, we have a chance to truly have a purpose in our lives." 

"The escaped memory was a diversion?" 

"Yes," said Mitzi. "And you should know that I am here to stay.  Right now, the incident command is determining that I am unable to continue in my work.  Soon, my body will be transferred to a mental health facility; it's where they send all the burned-out MNs.  It's what would have happened to me in the near future, anyway.  It's just that now, we have a choice." 

"At the right moment, if you accept, we will bring you here to be with us," said one of the brains. "But right now, we need you to complete today's transfer."

"I need to know more," said Julia.  She meant about everything, but one of the brains stepped forward.  "Hi Julia," said the brain. "I'm Megan. You're in the middle of my brain transfer, and I need you to save my life, just like you've saved so many of us." 

 


Save the Date: Where's the Middle?

So, I've been working on my Save the Date story for what feels like weeks now.  And I have the beginning and the end and the epilogue. Now I'm missing the middle.  I feel like I've written so much backstory that I can't quite figure out how to get from the beginning to the end, but I know I need to do quite a bit of editing to find my way.  Maybe I need to pretend that I'm my story heroine and discover the middle in the way that she did?  

I am also thinking about creating my own story structure.  I've looked at the traditional story writing methods and for some reason, those just make me feel anxious. So, now I'm thinking that I need my own personalized pattern to help move things along from the beginning to the end.  Kind of like a beat in a song or a rhyme scheme in a poem.  

Maybe something like this: 

P: Prologue

B: Beginning

W: What the character wants 

N: Narrative

C: Conflict 

T: Twist 

N: Narrative

C: Conflict 

T: Twist 

N: Narrative 

C: Conflict 

E: End (Resolution)

E: Epilogue 

Let's see what I can do with this today. Wish me luck! 


Save the Date: Read For Free on Kindle

If you have Kindle Unlimited, you can now read my newest published story, Save the Date, for free.  This is the third book in a series that takes place in the future.  It's about an alternative future in which robots and humans are trying to co-exist peacefully together after the havoc caused by the Human-Robot Wars almost destroyed the world.  

Save the date 2-3

In this book, memory nurse, Julia Jansson, has to decide if she's going crazy or if the brains that she's transferring memories from are actually crying out for her help. What will happen if she decides to accept their invitation to "save the date?"  And what will happen if she doesn't?