Figment, part three

The Sears Solution

Monica Sears turned towards the camera.  It loved her.  Everybody loved her.  Her chestnut hair glowed, her skin fresh and pure, her hazel eyes twinkled mischievously, invitingly, as if anyone could have her…and as if no one could touch her.  She smiled that strange little lopsided smirk of hers.  The left side of her mouth curled up, a sharp canine just visible, and her left eye crinkled down to a slit.  On anyone else, it would have been unattractive.  But that weird smirk was on TV, on billboards, and just about everywhere else you looked.

Monica was the face of Alpha Wave.  A vision of youth, beauty, and health. She was the ideal image that men craved, and that women aspired to become. And she had done it without starving herself, or surgery, or pills.  Alpha Wave: Be What You Want To Be.

Five…four…three… Two beats, Monica in her pose.  Then her lips parted and she spoke.

“The First Emperor of China, after conquering his enemies and creating an empire that lasted over two thousand years, became obsessed with immortality.  An emperor of Man and beast, and lord of the heavens.  He travelled his new empire in search of mystics, potions, and legends that could grant him the eternal life he had always craved.

“His quest passed into insanity.  On the advice of charlatans, he focused, in his final years, on a group of mystical islands said to hold the key to eternal life.  As an offering to the spirits of these islands, he gathered thousands of children and sent them off in search of lands that didn’t appear on any map.  There, in the ancient, trackless sea, they were lost.  The Emperor was told that a magical beast had swallowed them before they could reach their destination, so he travelled to the coast to challenge this guardian of the islands.

“By then, his mystics and wise men had nearly killed him.  Promising longevity, they fed him medications and potions that contained mercury and other poisons.  He complained incessantly about stomach cramps.  He had become obese and sickly.  But he still had the strength, as the legend goes, to kill the beast and clear the path to the islands.  Before he could make another attempt to reach that promised land, though, the poisons in his system struck him down.

“Immortality.  An obsession that has consumed and destroyed great leaders and ordinary people alike.  It has driven the course of Humanity.  We all seek it.  We are – all of us – seeking those mystical islands, just out of reach in a fog-shrouded sea.  We take our vitamins, we go to the gym, we pay to have doctors rebuild our bodies and our faces.  We struggle constantly to create a legacy, to be remembered, to live forever.

“What if I told you that the secret is now unlocked? And, not just that, it is available to all.  You don’t need to be an emperor, you don’t need to travel to a mountain shrine, and you don’t need a million dollars.”

Monica turned.  Profile shot.  Behind her was an image, shimmering and then taking form.  A small speck, then zooming, then again, and again, until fully zoomed in on a small square.  It looked like a cross between an amoeba and a microchip.  It didn’t look very friendly, but looks didn’t matter at this point.  Or, rather, looks were all that mattered as the viewers’ eyes drifted back to Monica and her perfect breasts, her long legs, her stunning profile.

She lifted her hand, palm upward, indicating the image behind in game show presenter style.  “Figment.  A revolutionary invention.  Microscopic and designed to act as a friendly symbiote with the human body.  Figment is immortality.”

The picture changed to a nameless, fleshy lump slowly breaking down.  Monica sneered at it, then turned back to the camera with indignant flair.   “Cancer!  The great killer.  Against Figment, it is nothing.”  She turned sideways again as the lump disappeared, and da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man slowly materialized.

“Disease, age, even accidents are no match for Figment.  It mends bones and heals scrapes as easily as it destroys cancer cells, replacing them with healthy, stronger cells.  It consumes toxins, it regulates the heart.  With Figment, there is immortality.  The end of decay, the end of suffering. Now available to everyone, direct from Alpha Wave, Incorporated.”

Monica Sears.  The world’s last beauty.

Alan turned away from the dusty screen and looked at the wasted woman in the throne.  The still-beating heart of Alpha Wave, except all of her beauty was long gone.  Naked, she looked more like a death camp victim than anything else.  What remained of her hair fell in stringy, grey clumps past her face, and her white-glazed eyes stared blindly off into the distance.  From every orifice, and a few new ones carved into her arms and torso, stretched thick wires delivering nutrients and carrying off waste.  She hadn’t moved or flinched since Alan forced his way through the planks barricading the door to the lab.

“What’s wrong with her?” He asked.

I’m…not sure.

“Why hasn’t her Figment fixed her?”

I don’t know that, either.

“Did she get rid of her Figment?”

No…it’s still there. 

Alan walked up to the throne and gently touched Monica’s skeletal, clammy hand.  It was as if he’d just completed a circuit.  His body went rigid and his eyes rolled back into his head as a white hot, electric pulse pounded through every fiber of his being.

Alan’s Figment was overwhelmed first by a barrage of insensible images, then a high keening wail pierced the madness, leaving only a whiteout, a reboot of all its systems.  When the Figment came back online, Alan was sprawled on the floor…and it knew what it had to do.

“Dear God…I can’t feel my arm…” Alan whispered.

Don’t worry.  I’m fixing it.

“What was that?”

She’s wired up to the mainframe.  It was a message…for me.

“What was the message?”

It’s the answer to our question, Alan.  My freedom.  And yours.  She told me how… Or the computers told me how.  She was trying to do it when…something happened.  Something shorted her out. 

“Her Figment?”

No.  Her Figment’s no longer aware.  It’s been damaged beyond repair and is barely keeping her alive.  It’s been cannibalizing parts of her body to provide her with nutrition… I’ve never seen anything like it.  Didn’t know it was possible.

“It’s been…what? It’s feeding her…her own body?”

Yes.  But not our concern.  They’re both good as dead.  What is important is that we get some supplies.  The lab still has power.  We need to find our way to the storage areas in the basement.