Nick Changes His Mind
Nick's first met "Bob" Dobbs on Xmas Day, 1996. His brother, a Licensed Minister, had placed the box with TBotSG and RevX and the rest under the tree. The first meeting was staged more for his brother's entertainment, as Master-Control Programming had already been informed, Nick already scheduled for assimilation.
The pstench had been obvious.
Still, it was heartening to watch the reaction of a latent Yetisyn when supplied with the Word of "Bob". Shortly after reading the books, Nick began displaying the Image at his workplace, subverting the bosses, annoying the co-workers with tales of Face Fucking Bats and Elder Gods. The Mysterious Power of Dobb's Luck became manifest almost immediately. Nick won Salesman-of-the-Year and an all-expense-paid trip for two to Australia, JUST after mentioning to his wife Roberta that he would really enjoy preaching the word of "Bob" to the Aborigines.
Just before leaving for Down Under, Nick mentioned that his "Third Nostril" was ALREADY opening, and the pain was INTENSE. He laughed when he was told that it would get MUCH WORSE.
Fourteen hours later, Nick and Roberta began two weeks of tanning, drinking, 'fropping, and preaching. Pictures of his Work among the bush-folk were stashed for later development, notes were taken to supplement a memory already in Slack-overload. Little did he know that during this revelry his soul-smudge was captured and analyzed (the aborigine with the didgeridoo was a British/Canadian operative named "Liam".) It was determined that Nick would be a perfect candidate to trial the new Overman Transformation Process - Project Nightingale. A whole contingent of Doktors assembled, started the Priming Beam and began encoding the DNA-transference-generator, overseen by "Bob" himself while he also tanned, drank, 'fropped, and preached. Everything was in place as Nick and Roberta boarded the plane to return home.
By the time the plane landed, that "Third Nostril" was acting up again. It turned into a soul-shredding blinding headache that prompted Roberta to drive Nick to the Hospital. Doktors were waiting that first day, but according to schedule nothing was to be done until the next day. No one realized that things were not going according to the schedule.
Nick had no memory of this first visit to the hospital. Indeed, by that time he was disoriented and vomiting. In spite of this, Roberta was appalled to find that they weren't going to do anything, apart from asking a few questions. The folks in Dobbstown were laughing over a tape of the interview later that day - Nick was completely out of his senses, but parroting the Doktor's questions back to him:
Doktor: What day is it?
Nick: Day? I don't know. I just got back from vacation!
Doktor: What did you have for breakfast today?
Nick: Did I have breakfast today?
Doktor: What is your name?
Nick: YOU should know my name!
The Doktor proclaimed that Nick was "probably just stressed" and prescribed 2mg Valium. The funniest part of the tape was Roberta screaming that this was BULLSHIT, that Nick was NO LONGER IN THERE, that he was in SERIOUS DANGER, and as they pushed her out the door they suggested that maybe SHE should pop a few Valiums herself. She had had some misgivings about this "Doktor" and the smell of alcohol and "something burning" on his breath, and called Hospital Administration, but of course was told that the Doktor was the BEST in his field, just flown in from Dallas, and ABOVE REPROACH.
By the next day Nick was in much worse shape. Roberta rushed him back to the Emergency Room and resolutely approached the admissions hole. The receptionist did not smile as she asked "What is it?" Roberta hesitated a moment then said her husband has terrible headaches and vomiting and was disoriented, nearly deaf and blind now, and that it started several days ago and has gotten progressively worse. The employee asked if they had insurance, then handed Roberta a clipboard with forms to fill out, saying that they were in luck, two more Doktors had just arrived from Dallas with a buttload of digital equipment and a huge support staff. She went on to relate that the support staff was obnoxious, had already eaten nearly the whole two week supply of food in the cafeteria, and seemed not to realize that this was a hospital and not a resort hotel. "Dr. Ivan will be with you shortly."
After another extended wait, they were taken to the far end of the wing to a common area, issued ID's that read NE-Patient, then through double doors into the North East wing and another checkpoint (this one with tough looking guards that were heavily armed) to a standard size examination room, where, after a rather lengthy wait, Nick was examined by Doktor Steve.
Doktor Steve was a slim man with long hair tied back in a ponytail; Roberta instantly felt that she could trust him, that he looked somehow almost holy. She told him how much pain Nick had been in, and gave the details of the progressive worsening since visiting the hospital. Nick was very quiet and had been walking and moving slower, the tunnel vision narrowing. Roberta's trust gave way when the Doktor joked that Nick looked like a pekineese with his eyes bulging out that way and that he probably shouldn't sneeze or his eyes would pop out. She asked him what was causing his face to expand; he shrugged and said sinus trouble, probably pollen.
Roberta was furious, saying that in NO WAY was she accepting it, that she was not leaving and that she wanted to see another doctor. Nick, who had been very still for quite some time, suddenly began to scream and scream and claw at his face and scream.
Roberta shouted at the Doktor to DO SOMETHING!
The Doktor looked completely bewildered for a moment, brightened and said something Roberta could not hear above the screaming, something about the trunk of his car, and dashed out of the room. The screaming continued and Roberta went out into the hall, then returned thinking to try to give comfort, failed and again rushed out into the hall to search for help. A door at the end of the hall opened, and a sleepy looking long haired crazy person dressed in white shambled out mumbling "what the hail is goin' ahn?" and walked towards Roberta. A nurse tugging on her uniform and adjusting her badge emerged after him and followed them into the scream room. Roberta swore that she heard the NE-Nurse say "Oh shut him the fuck up."
Doktor Ivan was shouting at her, but she couldn't make out a word. He stepped closer to her and yelled in her ear, wanting to know why Nick was screaming. Roberta smelled that same strange burning scent and, again, alcohol and saw that the Doktor's eyes were bloodshot and dilated. She backed away, shaking her head that she didn't know what was wrong with Nick, somehow conveying that she brought him to a hospital in the hopes of discovering what was wrong. The NE-Nurse, who was bent over what looked to be a multicolored oscilloscope with flashing rows of numbers along one edge and a series of superimposed waveshapes, yelled "This is the guy they were working on in Dobbstown? Why the fuck are the still beaming him? I thought the new process only cooks 'em for two or three days." Doktor Ivan turned towards the machine, taking in the implications, when Doktor Steve returned holding a tennis ball, followed by three big orderlies.
"Jesus!" exclaimed Doktor Ivan, "They've still got the P-1 beam on him! Get "Bob" in here, and get someone to run a CAT scan on him. We need to see what this is doing to him."
Doktor Steve motioned to the orderlies, who quite efficiently jerked Nick upright and hustled him out of the room. The impression that the orderlies had military training was strongly in Roberta's mind as Doktor Steve followed out the door. As the sound of screaming receded and then stopped, NE-Nurse said "Our GPS is still tracking him." She turned to Roberta and asked "When was your last day in Australia?"
"How did you know we were in Australia?" Roberta asked. The nurse stammered a bit, then said "Look, I need to know what DAY it was that you were last there. They told us you were there earlier. Sheesh. Just answer the question." Roberta said, "Saturday. Look, what's going on?" But Doktor Ivan spoke up and said "They've had him on for seven days. At least. Where is "Bob", dammit?" Roberta asked worriedly "What are you talking about? What are they doing? Who are they?" The Doktor ignored her, instead slipping a cellular phone of a very sleek design out from somewhere under his gown and turning towards the wall, speaking quietly but with authority for the next several minutes as the nurse made adjustments to the machine, displaying several different wave patterns and swearing softly. An attendant arrived at the door and asked Roberta to follow.
J.R. "Bob" Dobbs came into the room smiling and shaking his head. "I just sold the hospital a digital phrenological-assessment meter - and two years of software upgrades, as well as a six-year insurance policy!"
Doktor Ivan, immediately relieved to see "Bob" and ready to deliver a focused assessment of the situation, was caught totally off guard by this comment and rendered momentarily speechless, gaping in confusion. Forgetting all about the patient, Doktor Ivan offered a completely different assessment: "Dobbs," he said "ripping off this hospital is the dumb-assed-est thing I ever heard. You OWN this hospital! For "Bob"'s sake,"Bob", why would you sell your OWN hospital bogus equipment? The first patient that sues you will wipe out any profit you might have made, which will be zilch anyway since it's YOUR hospital paying for it."
"What a Dumbass," said NE-Nurse.
"Bob" looked around the room, taking in the analog blood-pressure monitor on the wall and the aged syringe-disposal station on the treatment cart. He smiled, distracted, and said "they could use new
blood pressure monitors in each of these rooms. I have a system that not only displays systolic and diastolic pressure digitally, making it far more accurate than these aneroid meters, but also displays the pulse and temperature, has a self-inflating, self deflating wrist cuff that is faster and far more comfortable, and features a large backlit display panel for easy visibility. The results are automated, so there is no fear of costly litigation due to mis-reading the meter; hell, you get a printout from the machine that goes directly into the patients' files. No one will ever lose their jobs due to incorrect diagnosis of hypertension, rheumatic disease, or inflammatory blood vessel conditions, since the machine will take all the blame. Yes, indeed. And the latest syringe-disposal stations are bleach-filled, made of super-modern acryllic lexite, are safer and more durable, and come with an included insurance policy protecting the owner from litigation due to accidental AIDS infections when used as directed."
Doktor Steve entered the room in time to hear the last part, snickered, and told "Bob", "I treat all my AIDS patients with a special diet of pancakes and flounder. It doesn't CURE 'em, but it slides under the door really nicely..."
Doktor Ivan nodded knowingly, then said "Ask him why he sold a 'phrenological assessment meter' to his own hospital." Doktor Steve smiled broadly, looked at "Bob" and inquired, "Did you really? That's really slick. What's it do?" "Bob" replied, "Nothing, really. It's just a cheap camera with a filter, hooked to a scanner and a MAC. It takes multiple cameos and stores them, then "processes" the info once the user sets it up. That's the catch. It will assess all manner of really rare conditions, IF the user programs it correctly. The software is so diabolical that NO ONE WILL EVER FIGURE IT OUT. These people don't have the time to study this stuff before the next great diagnostic tool hits the market, and they know it; they've given up trying. It's the hospital administration that buys the stuff, and they of course have no clue except that it makes them look authoritative. The more it costs, the better they feel about themselves, and the better they look to the hospital board."
Doktor Steve looked impressed. Doktor Ivan snorted, then said, "Now ask him how he intends to make money from ripping off his own business."
"Bob" smiled, and explained that the company manufacturing the device (Basic Universal Medical Processing Systems) was based in Dobbstown, Malaysia where uberprogrammers are bred and subjected to unspeakably cruel medical "experiments" and memory erasure, then conditioned to believe that the AMA was responsible for their hideous deformations and instilled with a burning desire for personal revenge. They work for free, usually focusing so much of their hatred and twisted obsession that they die of personal neglect and starvation in a short time. Very inexpensive to staff and run. Then the hospitals buy the products, and pass the costs along to the Feds and the State, or more likely to Big Business.
"Can I get them to pick up the cost of say, a new car," Doktor Steve asked hopefully. "Bob" replied, "Not unless it costs a HELL of alot. You gotta understand the psychology involved. This is the CON we're selling to. The keys to the sale are the needs and fears of the Pinks who authorize payment.Let's take this particular sale. I didn't sell my PA Meter directly to the Hospital; instead, I found a telecommunications company that recently promoted a typically incompetent Pink to Director of Civic Programmes. This Director's JOB is to donate money to community causes, to promote the CONcept that the company CARES about the community in the local media. So I sell the PA meter to the telecom company, who DONATES it to the hospital and takes a tax writeoff. Then the hospital administrators and the Director hold a big dinner with the media. The hospital Pink praises the telecom Pink for Outstanding Community Service, blah blah woof woof, and presents an award."
"The media gets dinner, the telecom Pink gets recognition for the company and probably a promotion for a job well done. The telecom company gets a tax writeoff and gets to wave the award around, proving to other Pinks what a caring, community-oriented team they are (and believe me, other CON companies WANT to do business with them for a vicarious piece of the action), and the hospital gets a New Toy to cost-depreciate over five years and is nearly guaranteed a bigger hunk of US Grant money AND future business donations."
"Err, I don't get it", Doktor Ivan interrupted. "Why does the hospital get more Federal and State funding, or future business cash, for having a useless piece of junk?"
"Bob" grinned. "It's NOT the junk. The junk has NOTHING to do with the deal! It's the psychology of the people responsible for the funding that matters. Some Pinks in a government office have to hand out gobs of cash, and have to ASSURE that the money goes to "worthy" causes. Politically, they have to justify their activities; psychologically, they have to feel important. So think about it: Are they going to give a big grant to a startup research group to synthesize N,N-Dimethyl-1H-indole-3-ethanamine and have to UNDERSTAND and EXPLAIN what the money will be used for? Or do they think "Hey, this hospital is getting BIG contributions from BIG bizness for being a RECOGNISED LEADER." Or when the next insecure Director of a big company trying to create an "identity" by donating cash finds out that the telecom people got media recognition and an AWARD, what do they do? Well, as I've always said...."
NE-Nurse spoke up, quoting, "The stupider is looks, the more important it probably is."
"EXACTLY!", "Bob" agreed enthusiastically. "You've learned a VERY important principle. In this case, the more it COSTS the more important it probably is. The Pinks WILL put out, but only if that original donation is sufficient to impress the bosses and media, who can then be assured that their contribution is justified. A ten thousand dollar donation will not impress them; now, if my PA meter donation is $950,000...well shit, that PROVES that the telecom company did something REALLY SPECIAL and therefore DESERVES the recognition. It PROVES that the hospital is now doing some cutting-edge work, and hence the government Pink or next business director Pink is justified in "being involved with this recognised leader." Whether the first company donates equipment, or holds a Golf Tourney, or whatever, the important thing is that a LARGE amount of cash must become associated with the Award. I am selling PRESTIGE here."
Doktor Steve went slack-jawed. "You sold that junk for $950,000?"
"Bob" smiled and nodded, then said, "Hell, it's all subsidised, and the CON is so used to paying for inexplicably expensive equipment that no one can begin to comprehend, they don't bat an eye. Any costs not picked up by Business or Unkle Sugar are passed along to the patients; the staff are kept in fear of malpractice lawsuits and so run all manner of extra-necessary diagnostics....I even SOLD them most of the analysis labs, and the staff itself makes big bucks by sending in "just ONE MORE TEST" to assure patients that the most unlikely illness scenerios are, indeed, unlikely. The staff never realizes that I make far more off the equipment and lab sales...They only see that the more tests they send out, the more they PERSONALLY make."
A staff surgeon from the SE wing paged Doktor Steve. The room became quiet as Doktor Steve spoke into the phone. "OK. Yes. No, he just checked in. No. You TOLD them that? OK. No, that was...um...for seziures. OK. Yes, we'll take care of him here. Thanks."
Turning, he reported, "Well, they gave our boy a CAT scan, and his brain is swelled up about a third more than normal. It's nearly comming out his NOSE!"
NE-Nurse added, "I'm not suprised. The damn P-1 beam should have been turned off four days ago." Turning to "Bob", she added "this is YOUR FAULT, ya know. Why do I get the feeling that you are running some hideous secret experiment under the guise of running THIS hideous secret experiment?"
"Bob" was non-plussed. "Moi?", he asked ingenuously. "What hideous secret experiment are we talking about here?"
Doktor Ivan answered, "That guy that we found that was PERFECT for Project Nightingale. He's still being tracked by global positioning. Still has the P-1 beam on him on full. That was supposed to be turned off days ago, he should have had the synergistic drugs and the electro-magnetic DNA restructuring by now. What we got instead is a Baked Yeti with a brain that looks like a microwaved marshmallow. When we left Dobbstown, you were Down Under running the P-1 beam. That aborigine that you were working with was supposed to take care of the everything and send him to us for finishing. What happened?"
"Bob" looked thoughtful, then said "Hmmm. I really don't remember. Liam and me were 'fropping and drinking tequila. Yeah, he was supposed to take care of it. I left him a little of the new 'frop harvest..."
NE-Nurse took command. "He's fucked, you know. We're gonna have to start from scratch here. All that fuckin' setup time wasted. Fuck. OK, let's close up here and put word out that we need another candidate, whoever is next in line. Ivan, you make the call. Steve, you start tearing this stuff down and get someone to pack it into my van." She glared at "Bob", and said "So now we'll have to work with SECOND BEST. That really chaps my ass. This one was PERFECT, and YOU FUCKED UP THE DAMN TEST!"
"Bob" lost his composure, saying "but..I...um...look...um..." He was sweating now, nervously eyeing the NE-Nurse who simply said "Shut Up!" "Bob" shut up.
Doktor Steve had finished packing up the gear, pressed a button on
his pager, then opened the door for the two assistants who responded. They each grabbed a stack of equipment and hurried out of the room. He was halfway out the door behind them when NE-Nurse barked "Not you. You stay right here."
Doktor Ivan put his cellphone away, said "Great news! I found
"Shut Up!" Ivan shut up.
"OK. Here's how it is. We fix the guinea pig. We head back to
Bulldada Time Control Lab. We start again. Right? Good. Now, how to fix a fried Yeti....hmmm....can't reverse the process...We're gonna have to swap out his brain."
"Bob" spoke up. "We could kill him..."
"No, were going to fix this mess. This one is useful; he's already made us money with his aborigine scam. They recognise him. You should have heard what he was PROMISING those suckers. No, we swap brains. The question now becomes: where do we find a brain? Do we have a spare?"
"Bob" shook his head.
Doktor Steve spoke up. "The Hospital here is full of feebs; we could grab one, chop up the...."
Doktor Ivan interrupted, "Wouldn't work. This one's so expanded, physically, that we couldn't do a one-to one map to transfer the memories. They said his brain was about a third larger than usual."
"We could get a larger-headed patient. I saw a girl in the SE ward in for a checkup. Annna something."
"Still couldn't fit the damn thing into the existing skull. He never got the drugs to soften the bones or expand the cranium."
"Well, those are new, anyhow," said "Bob". "We could use an artificial brain-case, and keep him in the labs."
"No. I want him mobile," replied NE-Nurse.
"Or an artificial brain...err, n-nevermind" stammered "Bob".
Doktor Steve brightened. "That's a GREAT idea! We could make another copy of...what's the matter?"
"Bob" looked pained. Trembling, he shook his head, said "No. Nevermind."
"Tell him," NE-Nurse spat.
"Er, we made so many copies for the clones that last time...it..err, I think the new chip might just be better though." "Bob" looked speculatively at the NE-Nurse.
NE-Nurse bristled, took two steps towards "Bob", who backed two steps away. "Care to see it my way?" she threatened. "Bob" shivered. "Care to have your eyes stuffed down your throat and your eye sockets filled with your testicles?"
"Bob" whimpered slightly.
"No? OK, then we won't burn any more copies" NE-Nurse said sweetly.
"Bob" seemed relieved. "Right. No more copies. We had this problem with Liam, when we were working on the brain growth issue. That's why we moved him into an aborigine. Lots of skull-space."
"Brain too big to template off of, skull too small to transplant into, nothing mechanical..." Ivan summarized. "Better just kill him."
Doktor Steve shrugged, reached for a scalpel.
"Bob" lit his pipe, inhaled, exhaled. His eyes took on an unearthly glow. He smiled. "We could contact Doktor Deforrest. She's been, um, dabbling in some new procedures. Might just have a suggestion."
NE-Nurse turned to Doktor Ivan, said "Do it."
Doktor Ivan punched a code into the cellphone and was immediately connected to Dobbstown. He handed the phone to the NE-Nurse.
"Hi, Renee? Yeah. No, we're back to square one. Completely fucked.No way to tell, never got that far. Who do you THINK? Yeah, a typical fuckup. No, he's alive. They toasted him with the P-1 for a week....never got the rest. Yeah. That was the plan. Well, that's a problem. The brain is about a third too big. Oh yeah, worked fine. No, can't do a transfer, and I want him mobile. No, we'd lose too much... Secure... Well I wish you COULD kill him. What? Err, I don't think...um....really?.....you think it will work? What about X-day? Heh heh... Sure Renee; if you got the money, honey. Hell, if you take over, Ivan will follow the cash. I'm in... No, not a word. No.... Oh yeah, Nightingale will continue with another one...First we gotta fix this. Yeah. Can that be done? ... How?... Damn, that's clever. So what channel? It's ready now? OK, I see. Yeah, I can do that. Err, no problem. What if he walks into a lead building? HAHAHA. OK, arrange delivery. We'll do the surgery here. Hey, thanks, Renee."
NE-Nurse broke the connection, eyes shining with a look of admiration as she handed the phone back to Doktor Ivan. "She is one brilliant woman."
"Bob" smiled, said, "I only hire the best. Or make do with what's available. So what's the plan?"
NE-Nurse ticked off the main points: "One, we set up in pre-op. Two, we scan his memory and download it to our server in Dallas. Doktor Deforrest has already enabled the transfer. I have the coordinates. Three, she's Fed-Xing an antenna, we need that before we take out the brain."
Doktor Ivan interrupted "How can we install an antenna? There is no room as is. Unless we dump the memory back to a construct, an I thought 'Bob" decided against..."
NE-Nurse continued "Well, HERE is the brilliant part: We take out the brain, TURN it on a LATHE until we have room for it AND the antenna in the existing skull. The memories will be shaved off, but we'll just beam all his thoughts directly from Dallas. The antenna will act as an umbilical to the memories, and we will also be able to download any programming directly. Hell, if this works, it might be cheaper in the long run to install one in every reverend on the mailing list. We need to erase the wife's memories too, the last 48 hours or so. Let's get set up."
Roberta woke up next to the bed in the recovery room. She was disoriented at first, then remembered that Nick had survived emergency brain surgery. It seemed she had been dreaming...no she couldn't remember. And didn't care. It was enough to know that her husband was OK. They had talked when he first woke, and she had never seen him happier. They talked about their love for each other, and their love for their lives. He said that when he was recovered he would quit his job and they would travel and fish and swim and do whatever they wanted. He wanted to go back to Australia. But first, he said, they both needed to send $30 to PO Box 140306, Dallas, TX 75214, and also buy some tee-shirts.