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Chapter One: Augustine Milner-Kelly
“That’s funny. I’m not waking up to my alarm clock”, thought Augustine Milner-Kelly. He was a thirteen-year-old boy, and was of medium height and had straight brown hair. Suddenly, he smelled a scent that he had only sniffed twelve times before—BIRTHDAY! It was a Tuesday, March 14th, but school didn’t matter. Ever since 2030, kids fifteen and under were given a day off, as scientists had proved that taking a day off when the child turned stimulated cerebral cortex neuron and grey matter formation. This was ratified by the twenty-third amendment, in 2031. He pressed the button that had a cake on it next to his bed, and his machine did its work. In a minute, Augustine, complete with an octahedral party hat, stepped down the stairs, brushing his teeth with purple anamorphous plasma-gel on the way.
When he finished climbing down the diamond-inlaid marble stairs, he fully expected both of his parents and his sister to be waiting for him downstairs at the table. Even when his parents were in their numerous midlife crises, they still gathered round to eat Augustine’s birthday pudding. However, when his father, Bradley Milner-Kelly, the great inventor, did not show up, Augustine knew something was wrong. His mother’s response also surprised him.
“Oh, your father’s just having a really bad day, so he decided to lock himself up in his room until he was ready to come out.”
“Why is that?”
“It’s none of your business. Now finish your pudding or I’ll send you to school…on the charge packet.” Augustine’s least favorite transportation system of all time, the charge packet induced a temporary electric field through the conductor on the opposing side, thus attracting the person as well as the charge packet.
The 23rd amendment was only an option, saying that the students could skip out if they wanted to. Or if their parents forced them to go to school.
Augustine knew that with the 2053 technology, he could coax anything out of his mother.
While his mother summoned the salesmen (by the dreaded charge packet) to their house to buy flour and shortening to prepare Augustine’s birthday cake, Augustine raced up the stairs and snatched his tickle belt and remote control from his desk. When his mother finished the transaction, he casually approached his mother. When activated, the tickle belt sent a pulse wave through the carbon atoms and, thanks to the free-rotating alkanes in the belt, sank into the stomach and caused controllable laughter. His mother took a glance at the red belt with a huge pouch and antenna sticking out and pronounced, “My birthday’s in another three months, so I’ll have to run some tests on the chemical makeup of this belt”.
Augustine didn’t get the logic there. “But mothers never make sense or logic anyway, I mean, did I really have to build a robot to pick up my socks?”
“You see, there shouldn’t be any reason why you should be presenting me with this belt unless it is my birthday or if you are trying to mess up my internal system.”
His mother returned from the lab. “After taking some examinations, I figured out that there was both methane and propane in this pouch, as well as trivial amounts of ethyl alcohol. Are you trying to kill my olfactory cells?” A weak ’no’ worked its way from Augustine’s throat.
“And where did you get this alcohol? Father’s cases are strictly forbidden from children under the age of twenty and are named Augustine Isaac Milner-Kelly and live on Euglena Street. However, since this is your birthday, I will try it on.” Click, went the belt. Tight, went the mother. Is this adjustable?
Augustine slapped his forehead. Of course, that’s why the belt went out of shops in the 2020’s, and so he had to send over his robot to steal one from a junkyard. Tight waists were out of fashion. Old school.
“So, mom, why is dad so down in the dumps today?”
“None of your business.” Beep. Laugh, Laugh.
“You have nothing to do with it.” Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…
Augustine’s mother tossed him back the bright red strip with methane and propane. With an insolent smirk on her round face, she said, “as the founder of Einstein’s Big Theory relating all of the different aspects of physics into one gargantuan equation, why would I fall for that?”
Augustine groaned and ate his pink-iced cake decorated with taste bud stimulators, freshly out of the muon accelerator.
His father stayed in his room the whole day.
Augustine got a new holographic Hinterdo® gaming system, complete with wireless controls and five games.
His father stayed locked in.
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The next day after school, Augustine tried to figure out himself why his dad was acting so peculiarly. He sent his smallest robot, Hari, underneath his father’s door to figure out any passwords for his account on the Intranet and to post it on his board. The list ran:
Ichthyosaurus. H2O. Ultra Fine. Yeldarb. No Hope!
Augustine could see clearly that it wasn’t 2 or 4, since both of these “passwords” were out of date. He was about to inspect further until the dinner bell rang, and he would have to wait until tomorrow to figure out the problem, but for some reason number five stuck in his head.
Chapter Two: Mr. Hacker
The next day, Augustine stepped into 10257 Euglena Street. He devoured the remnants of the birthday cake, which displayed a hint of mold. Oh, well, he would have to inject some Fung-away into his bloodstream to stop diseases.
When he returned to his desk, he saw that there were two more optional passwords:
Ichthyosaurus. Ultra Fine. No Hope! Suicide. Invention.
Silently thanking his green pet robot for presenting him these new optional passwords, Augustine turned on his desktop holoputer, and turned on the Intranet. Name? Bradley Milner-Kelley. Age? Forty-four. Please pronounce your name. Augustine played the prepared video tape. The Intranet detected tremulations, tone, and depth of the voice. Since the password “No Hope!” appealed to him, he tried that first.
“Accepted”, chimed the shallow voice.
“You have 3 new messages”
“Open”, another piece of script from the tape.
From John Hermit:
You are right; there is no hope. Both Sally and I have tried hard to invent something, but you are right, there is no more to invent. Also, most people agree on your choosing of the date.
Date? What Date?
From Sally Mathews:
October 13th sounds great.
From the International Inventor’s Association (IIA):
Our counsel believes that this act of inventors is a good idea for the inventors who are desperate—
Augustine closed his holoputer. He knew that his father was depressed, but now he knew why—because he thought that there was no more to invent. His father’s roaring groan erupted from the room down the hall, yelling for his bread and milk of magnesia. Also for his daily case of beer.
Augustine searched frantically through all of the books that he could find an idea. An idea to spark an invention, to end the morass that the current inventors were trudging through in. He took out the dusty book: Exploring Brain Transplants.
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The next day he woke up light and cheerful. Augustine hopped on the school bus and injected his steroids. The UN, recently disbanded, had invented a new steroid, derived from fat and cholesterol, so that it would have no side effects at all. After that, it was internationally and constitutionally declared legal under all circumstances.
Augustine ran around the track, forty circles, as was his custom. He hit the ten-pound barbells, and did squats and lunges.
Walking out the gymnasium, Augustine spotted something new: a big line of people to the showers. Usually, he was the only one there. Clearly, something was wrong.
“Hey, did you hear about what’s going to happen in October?”
“Yah, my pa is really up for it”
Augustine could see that the news was quickly spreading. But what really was going on?
After hitting the showers, Augustine rushed into the biology room. If there was one thing that didn’t change over fifty years, was the level of science taught, no matter how much the technology improved. Sixth grade was biology, then chemistry, then biology again, then chemistry again, then physics, then you pick. Quickly flipping through the holographic textbook, he reached his destination: vertebrates.
Out came the gravelly voice: “Suppose that a person offers you a drug….now suppose he changes drug into microchip. It will make you feel really good, but it will lop ten years….the hagfish are a member of the jawless fishes….fishes are most successful—”. Shut, went the hologram. Get ready for your tests, went the teacher. “This isn’t too bad,” thought Augustine. “I only have three more tests to go.”
Chapter Three: Initiation
After spending a whole night worrying about his tests and his father, the next night Augustine started his project: to invent something, anything.
As it turned out, the book on cranial implants was no help at all. Pacing around his chrome room, he got it. The perfect idea for an invention!
“I got it! I’ll mix a liquid which reflects wavelengths of about 600 nm and of about 500nm!”
His obnoxious sister poked her head in. “It’s called orange, and it was out like, five years ago,” motioning her silver and shiny black suit, very much typical of everyone else in the world. The suit was straining at the seams. “And don’t try mixing any others, because they’re called green and purple.”
Suddenly, Augustine remembered something worth remembering. The biology textbook! What was it…the microchip would lop ten years off of your life… If he could somehow make one that didn’t have any effect on the lifespan then….
“Hey, Harriet, what time is it when you’re out of ice cream”, Augustine said reading off of his taste bud stimulator; the last one left from his cake. Harriet turned and walked away. “Pretty soon you’ll want to be a comedian,” she called over her shoulder. “Or perhaps create a brain stimulator Popsicle and put your hilarious jokes on it.”
Little did she know what would happen.
Report cards came out, announcing the end of third term, April Break, and the little time – 5 months – that Augustine had before whatever would happen on September 13. Harriet was “sick” that day, so he got to take a peek at her scores. The best was a C, and the teacher’s comments were: talks too much in and out of class. His worst was a B– in English, which never was his forte. Next came his history score, a dreary B+. Bummer. He though he had aced it. Another letter from the Biology teacher: Chapter 34, the brain, was due over vacation.
Augustine did not get as much work done as he might have hoped over the April Break, mainly because of the Biology project that was due. However, he did get to outline his invention:
How does it work: It detects when the brain does not have much activity except when between 10pm and 7am. If the brain is “sad”, the microchip releases certain neurotransmitters in order to make the person feel happy. If the person is hyper, it suppresses neurotransmitter movement temporarily.
Before he could finish making his outline, his smallest robot crawled under the door, and handed him a little slip of paper. It read in big letters, HACK ON TO HOLOPUTER AGAIN.
And so he did.
He went through the standard procedure. “You have 3 new messages” chimed the monotonous program. “Open,” went the tape.
Only then did he realize that more than a hundred people’s lives relied on his effort.
Chapter Four: What’s Going On?
From the IIA:
Yes, almost every inventor has agreed. Friday, October 13, shall be the mass suicide. Atop of Volvox’s Bridge on Paramecium Street.
Augustine closed the holoputer. He needed a job quickly, to get the materials he needed to stop this mass suicide of inventors.
He decided to be a baby-sitter.
“Hi, Mrs. Chase, I hear you need a babysitter. Well, I am open. Oh, I charge five dollars an hour; I think it is an acceptable price, if I may say so myself. Okay, bye.”
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Augustine was tense. After babysitting for three months, he had only raised $200 and needed more. With only two months to go, he needed all the money he could get. So he tried, again the tickle belt, but this time on Harriet.
Of course, he had to wait for her birthday.
“Happy Birthday, Harriet! I got you this new belt. Try it on.” Harriet put it on. “Can I have some money?” Augustine asked soon after.
“Oh, no, you think like that like, by having those big, like, puppy dog eyes you can like convince me to give you, like, money.”
A defiant “yes” erupted from Augustine’s vocal cords. He pressed the button. The remote sputtered for a short while, and then the blinking fluorescent pink light atop the control blanked out.
“Shoot, I need to recharge the mercury-tecnesium battery”, he whispered.
Harriet took off the belt while he was gone and threw it in the back of her closet.
That day was the first day that their father came out of his room. Or else a thing that pretended to be their father. Everything about him was skinny, except for his huge bulging belly.
“Boy, someone’s becoming a free drinker”, Harriet whispered to Augustine when he returned.
“I think he’s too patriotic,” Augustine replied, indicating the cases of Samuel Adams that his father was desperately trying to bring upstairs with him.
“Ha, ha, ha, very funny, Augustine.”
“As you were…”
Augustine’s mother stood in front of the oddly disproportional Bradley Milner-Kelly. Easily quenching his grip from the case of beer, she carried him over to the dinner table. After forcing down a couple of spoons of corn soup, Augustine’s mother cried in shock.
A deluge of translucent brown liquid spurted out from Bradley’s mouth. Out came another. Also about two spoonfuls of corn mush.
“Ay, I have never felt so empty, in my life,” cried Mr. Milner Kelly, and retreated to his room dolefully.
Chapter Five: Rough Draft
Augustine ran along Paramecium Street and over Volvox’s Bridge, the scene of the future crime. He watched workers place a huge board over the bridge only connected by an attached cord. Running across the bridge to Marlbury Street and entering the shop, ’Chemistry Forever’, Augustine pulled out his cash.
“Let’s see, we’ve got seventeen Washington’s, three Lincoln’s, four Jackson’s, five Grant’s, and three Franklin’s. That makes $662.”
Strolling along the S isle, Augustine stopped short at Si; Silicon. Silicon was extremely expensive these days. He waved the Price Scanner over the tub of shiny brittleness. “Analyze”, he spoke into the tiny handheld.
“$12.35 per gram,” responded the silky voice. “And $25.03 for every two grams, if you please.”
“That makes no sense at all,” Augustine cried. Anyway, he needed seventeen grams of Silicon to start tinkering with. “Add to Shopping Cart”. With $452.05 left, he would have to manage his money more carefully.
“Seven grams of Platinum, please”
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Renewed from returning from the shop, Augustine set to his desk. Scattering ruthlessly the materials across the milky white desk, he called for Deej, his cleaner robot.
“Ammonia,” Augustine called, “I need to complex out this silver chloride again.” The desk turned from an opaque white to an unfathomably clear tabletop. Placing his facemask on, Augustine wielded his welding torch. Occasionally soddoring and checking his stained blueprint, the small chip evolved. Within three day’s of vacation, Augustine exclaimed in glee.
“Yay! It’s finished!”
His mother’s head appeared in the screen above his desk. “You might want to test that little devil before you patent it.”
Augustine called over one of his pet rats. He carefully incised the rat’s forehead, inserted the chip, and stuck some wires into the rat.
“Control”, shouted the screen’s holographic image. Augustine attached wires to another rat.
There were no significant changes in and brain wave frequency or amplitude between the two rats. With less than two months remaining, Augustine had to start over again. But first he would have to fathom what had gone wrong.
Which took an additional month. And with school, he didn’t have any time to legitimately construct a microchip.
Returning home from school on the 19th of September, Augustine jumped to his desk. Thanks to a whole day of assessments, he had no homework and began to brainstorm.
“What is it that made the last one fail? Was it the lack of artificial stimulators? Size? Potency? Anything else? Were the rats bad examples? Did the microchip not contain the necessary ingredients for the right stimulation of the neuroglial cells…?”
“Augustine, it is 10:57.” Called his mother over the intercom. “And you still haven’t turned off your holoputer.” Dazedly rising from his stupor of questions, Augustine pushed the button that turned his holoputer off. He fell asleep instantly into the abyss of confusion.
The next day, a dreary Saturday, Augustine did something that he had never done before—he woke up early.
“Augustine, is something wrong? You seem to be having a stress attack,” said his mother, sticking her head into his room.
“No, I am not having a stress attack. And take off that tattoo. It’s as obnoxious as Harriet, and that’s saying something,” he replied.
Augustine’s mother had smeared ’DARWIN IS MY HOMEBOY’ in big red and green letters over her forehead. “Darwin is my homeboy,” she stated proudly.
“Yeah, like I didn’t figure that out already,” Augustine snarled, hovered over his desk. He was dissecting his microchip failure back into its elements.
“That’s coming off of your allowance”, and suddenly a bar labeled “Weekly Allowance” in Augustine’s room plummeted to $2.
Angered, Augustine found another way to let out his hot air.
The next morning, Harriet screamed. Someone had taken her picture of Jesse MacNarthy. And her favorite one too. The one that read, Jesse MacNarthy thinks that you are beautiful. And Harriet was anything but that.
Chapter 6: Final Draft
It was October 5th, and the microchip was finally beginning to take shape once again. Augustine, laying in his bed in a deep stupor, suddenly sat upright, as if he had been tortured in a dream.
“Eureka! The last chip was deficient of the necessary mitochondrial DNA and neurotransmitters necessary for adequate regulation of the cerebral cortex’s neuroglial cells to control the overall stimulation or depression, thus creating a feeling of well-being and euphoria!” He set to work immediately. Taking a rat, he stuck a syringe through its head and extracted an olive-green fluid from its brain. From the same rat came a yellow-ish fluid from a muscle fiber—the location from many mitochondria, and thus many mitochondrial DNA. To say the least, the rat instantly died.
Although the microchip did indeed impact test rats dramatically, Augustine was faced with another dilemma: how would he receive the fluid? He couldn’t just kill people to make his invention.
Augustine’s mother was calling him. “Augustine, can you take these beakers outside? We’re out of proton dryers, and I need them for my experiment.” Jumping downstairs from his desk, Augustine put them out on the liverwort-woven front porch.
While Augustine took out the beakers, he arranged them into neat rows. Suddenly, he heard screaming from afar.
A sixteen foot ferret riding on an 18-wheeler, 153’ cargo truck sped down the highway, hitting numerous people who were estupido enough to stand in its way. More than half of the beakers were filled with olive-green fluid or a yellowish fluid. Neurotransmitters and Mitochondrial DNA for his experiment!
Augustine gleefully ran into his desk, carrying the beakers and spilling marginal amounts on the white tiled floor. He started the mass production of his microchips, patent number 21349385505 (cool, my patent number is divisible by nine).
The fourteenth of October dawned, and Augustine Milner-Kelly received a message from the IIA.
From the IIA:
Greetings, Mr. A. Milner-Kelly,
We would just like you to know that our testers have found your new invention very helpful, and it has gotten them through their various depressions.
How is it made? Please respond summarily.
By the way, are you interested in joining the IIA?
From Augustine Milner-Kelly:
Thank you for your approval of my new invention. I would be delighted to join the IIA.
How is it made? I combined 13 grams of silicon, and 4 grams of platinum. Adding a pound of carbon, I then stirred in boiling water for a minute and twenty-six seconds. Extracting 2-gram portions, I then added a nano-pint of neurotransmitters, and three micro-pints of mitochondrial DNA. Then I injected this into the chip, and then you (as the consumer) insert it into your forehead.
From the IIA:
Are you sure you have all the materials you need?
Augustine responded, yes, patting the gallon jugs of fluid on his desk. I have enough to last a lifetime.
Waking up from his dream, Augustine yawned and unintentionally bumped his head on his black levitator, his bed. He exclaimed, “Wow, what a dream! I’ve never had a dream that spanned eight months!” Before jumping downstairs to devour his birthday pudding, he titled his newest entry in his dream book: The Microchip. Rushing downstairs and greeting his mother and father, he proclaimed to them, “I just had the weirdest dream, with you, and—unfortunately—Harriet, and a giant ferret, and everything!”
“Giant ferret?! Where!?” came Harriet’s voice, hoarse from lack of sleep (which in her world, means staring too long at her picture of Jesse MacNarthy).
Lifting his son’s head from the Scientists magazine, Bradley Milner-Kelly glared straight into his son’s eyes and said, “Son, I think you are ready to help me with my new invention. Any bright ideas?”
Augustine nodded vigorously. “A microchip!”
For once in his life, Bradley Milner-Kelly was at a loss of words.