“‘I’m getting a new body,’ I told her.
“Jerinda looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. Then I told her that before I’d give her any more information, she’d have to promise me that she wouldn’t breathe a word of this to another living soul, Chlaus included—and she agreed.
“I told her about finding the ad, the cost, and that a new body would be 3D printed just for me, at a remote site of my own choosing, which would be ‘synched up’ with my own brain function. She was incredulous that I would consider doing such a thing, and she wanted me to speak with Chlaus before making the commitment to go ahead with it. I told her that I couldn’t since I had already made a commitment and signed a non-disclosure agreement, which I was actually violating just by confiding in her.”
Dr. Valenzuela raises her eyebrows just a tad. “So, since Jerinda’s a life coach, how did she take the news that you were not open to being talked out of your decision, or at least being counselled about it?”
“Jerinda is one of the most together people I know. She doesn’t get upset easily, and she also knows that I don’t take advice well. She did what I wanted her to do—she listened to me and little by little, she started to warm up to the idea.
“She had a lot of questions about the 3D printing process, which I knew she would, so I prepared myself in advance—the last thing I ever want to do is to have Jerinda think I’m stupid. But, you know what? She’s never judged me. Sometimes I think she’s one of the few people in the whole world who really appreciates me for who I am. I really can’t think of anyone else, my own family included—except for my own mother—who loves me as much as Jerinda does.”
Dr. Valenzuela watches as the still-reclining-with-eyes-closed Morgana kicks off her Crapezoids, those horrendous rubber clogs with the round holes that are so unfortunately popular, in order to be able to rest her heels on the couch’s over-stuffed arms. Tapping her pen, Dr. Valenzuela mentally gives her one “gold star” for removing her shoes before putting her feet on the couch, and two “demerits” for wearing Crapezoids. No self-respecting tenum would ever be caught, even in “downtime,” wearing such tasteless footwear. Dr. Valenzuela secretly believes that Crapezoids are inextricably linked to low self-esteem and/or a glaring lack of self-awareness. She reflects that Crapezoids are to aesthetics what hot sauce is to the eyes. Momentarily distracted by the magenta Crocs, she redirects her focus back to Morgana.
“But Jerinda’s good at what she does—she actually gets people to realize, without just coming out and saying so, where they should be heading and why. Plus, she’s my best friend, and in spite of all my self-negation (as she would call it), she’s always been my safety net.”
Morgana remembers how she rehearsed the information countless times before picking just the right moment to explain it all to Jerinda. Even if she didn’t fully understand everything about it herself, the narrative, strung together from the words and phrases she memorized and then practiced, could convey a rather coherent description to someone who WAS capable of understanding.
Even though Morgana didn’t have much of a science background, she realized that she knew more than she gave herself credit for. Actually, she thought, you’d have to be under a rock these days NOT to know that 3-D bio printers have been studied for a while already. Plus, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that each year, more and more new applications would be conjured up by a proliferating base of scientists, engineers, manufacturers, dabblers and madmen, to name just a few. All you have to do is look at the front page of any newspaper. Just thumbing through back copies of dog-eared weekly business magazines in the dentist’s office, you could easily get the impression that each new application would generate start-up companies, inventions, patents, competition for grant funding, and countless proposals to wealthy investors, not to mention wild goose chases. It was only a matter of time before commercial enterprises (like, “The Our Little Secret Travel Agency”) would make unbelievably novel opportunities (like Morgana’s) commonplace.
“Jerinda is already very familiar with what I think of as ‘fringe science,’ since Chlaus is obsessed with ‘the Singularity.’ She’s the one who has been telling me all these years about how 3-D printing technology is progressing, especially in prosthetics and in organ and tissue replacement, and how, one day, bodies will be printed to host a human ‘refugee’ brain–and its still-intact consciousness–newly severed (or, as Chlaus would say, ‘liberated’) from its original dying or recently-dead body. So, I was a little surprised by her initial reaction.”
Dr. Valenzuela shifts in her seat. She clearly takes up for Jerinda, saying, “I’m not surprised—it’s a huge decision, and not one to be taken lightly. Not many people would embark upon such adventure, for a whole host of reasons, the first of which is that this technology is so new, it still feels like science fiction. Talking about it is one thing, and actually doing it is quite another. So what else did you tell her?”
Morgana recounts what she had explained to Jerinda: how a body, that she herself would help to design, would be printed for her at one of The Our Little Secret Travel Agency’s spas in another country. The process would take two to three days once she chose the country and had completed her Adaptation. At that point, she could begin her “vacation,” by initializing the brain interface, which would allow her to inhabit her new body, or tenem, for thirty-one, eight-hour visits. During that time, she was free to do whatever she liked (within reason, of course). She had to use up her thirty-one visits within six months or she would lose them. In order to access her new body, or “tenem,” she had to be able to be asleep for eight hours straight at any time from 9:00pm until 9:00am.
The body, or “tenum” would be printed, layer upon layer, using “ink” composed of a mixture of regenerative stem cells from Morgana’s own fat tissue, which are isolated and replicated in the laboratory, and extra-cellular matrix molecules taken from Morgana’s DNA, are also replicated in the laboratory. The bones, musculature and skin are all made from this “ink,” which is simultaneously combined with liquid polymers that congeal or harden with varying degrees of elasticity and rigidity. Another “ink,” made of liquefied, ultra-dense lithium, fills in the femur bones, which will store auxiliary power for the tenem. The printing process also embeds nano-chip circuitry throughout the body, where appropriate, to facilitate seamless and instantaneous brain-body synchronicity. The nano-chip circuitry will receive continuous information from the sensorial nano-mesh which will also be embedded by the printing process under the last two layers of skin and mucous membrane. The skin will be just as sensitive as normal human skin, except that the nano-mesh under the skin will have photo-voltaic capacity to absorb solar energy, ensuring a steady supply of energy to the tenem. Excess energy will be stored in the lithium-filled femurs which essentially serve as batteries. The skin will also be able to pull moisture from the air into its cells to redistribute to the rest of the body for hydration of the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, mouth and throat (and for female tenems, the genitalia, as well) to increase pleasurable sensations, avoid or minimize potentially damaging activity, and to give the skin a fresh, dewy look and feel. The moisture will also help to conduct the electrical impulses from all parts of the body to the base of the tenem’s skull, which will be where this data and the other digital data from the tenem’s nano-chip circuitry, interfaces in real time with the brain of the client.
“Well, if that’s what you told Jerinda, you did a great job!
“Thank you, and that reminds me–there are so many things I should probably ask you while we’re talking about it.”
“Not that this is even relevant anymore, but Jerinda had asked if she could visit me while I was in tenem mode. I told her I didn’t think she could. Did I get that right?”
Dr. Valenzuela replied, “Yes, you did. A visit by a non-tenem is not possible, since the whole purpose of The Our Little Secret Travel Agency is to provide a vacation from your present life. Plus, think about it—can you imagine a spouse or a ‘significant other’ finding the vacationing/escaping ‘other half’ in an indelicate or compromising situation? There would be murder and mayhem, and that would be the end of our enterprise. We have a lot of safeguards built into our system for your protection and for ours.”
“Is that why there is no printed or digital information about The Our Little Secret Travel Agency? That was another thing that Jerinda had asked me about.”
“Yes! We are very protective about all our information. We have scanners all over the place to detect and prevent devices of all kinds from recording or photographing our operations or personnel. Other than our website (which has very little information) and our phone number (which–yes, I know–is incredibly ‘old school’), we generally only conduct personal business face-to-face and we allow almost no dissemination of information. Once we make a connection via the website or a phone contact, we thoroughly investigate the person making the inquiry to be as sure as we can that the contact is not hostile.”
“So, what if a client shares information with a non-client?”
“First of all, the client has to invest a lot of money to do this, so it’s not very likely that they will divulge what they are doing. If they do divulge the information, the client willingly relinquishes the right to any consideration for their $30,000 pursuant to the terms of the non-disclosure agreement, but that would depend upon whether or not The Our Little Secret Travel Agency actually sustained damages as a result of that breach of confidentiality. We aren’t doing anything illegal—we are just providing a service, a service that is ‘rendered’ in another country. Remember…it’s our little secret! All our physical sites are well-hidden. There’s no way you could find your way back to this office—you were taken here by a pilotless, almost invisible drone! One of our many safeguards is that when you are in tenem mode, you will not remember your real name or the names of anyone in your family or circle of friends. You will remember mostly everything about them and their relationship to you except their names—including the names of companies, where you live, where you work, the name of your church, etc. In your waking mode, you will remember your new tenem name, the names of your fellow tenems. You will not, however, be able to locate the site at which you “vacationed,” nor will you be able to contact other tenems in their waking mode. Even though your own brain function will control the movements and actions of your tenem and you will fully perceive and enjoy all those sensations and experiences, some things will be imperceptibly moderated by a finely-tuned override program to prevent the experience from going awry.”
Morgana bristled at the thought of being observed, and quickly responded, “So the tenems are under surveillance???”
“No, nothing like that!” Dr. Valenzuela proceeds cautiously. “It’s a digital application that prevents the tenem mode and the waking mode from interfering with each another. Let’s just say one night, during your eight-hour “visit,” your house catches on fire. We wouldn’t want your activated tenem to start screaming, ‘Fire!!!’ in our spa halfway across the world while you and your family members perish in a fire at home, right? In the event that you would be required to resume your waking mode—to deal with an emergency like a fire, or a non-emergency, like your alarm clock randomly going off—the digital application would allow you to wake up immediately, as you would if you were merely asleep, to deal with whatever you had to deal with.”
“Alright, so here I am, at home. I’ve woken up, my house is filled with smoke and I’m frantically battling an inferno. What’s my tenem doing? Sipping mint juleps without my knowledge?”
Dr. Valenzuela chuckles and thinks of Nero fiddling as Rome burns.
“No, your tenem would go into auxiliary mode, excuse herself from whatever she was engaging in, and retire to her room to power down, which we refer to as ‘downtime.’ The clock on your eight-hour visit would still be ticking, though, and once you begin your eight-hour visit, it is yours to do with as you wish. Should your tenem be in ‘downtime’ because of your personal situation in your waking life, so be it. You don’t get that time back.”
“So if someone starts banging on my door at home at 3AM while I’m in tenem mode, and I have to interrupt my ‘visit,” but I still have a few hours left, can I get back into tenem mode? A thousand dollars a visit is a lot to pay for my tenem to be in ‘downtime.’”
“Yes! Of course! Your eight hours are your eight hours. But that’s why it’s a very good idea to be as sure as you can beforehand that you can manage an uninterrupted eight hours. I can’t impress upon you enough how very important this is so that you can maximize your enjoyment of this incredible experience.”
Morgana sits up and faces Dr. Valenzuela. With a big grin, she says, “Well, I guess I’d better get busy and come up with a new name for my tenem.”
Dr. Valenzuela, amused by Morgana’s sudden perkiness, asks, “Any ideas?”
“Yes,” she says. “I’ve always loved the rain, and when I was a little girl, my favorite doll was named ‘Rain.’ I lost her when we took a trip to the mountains. Even though she was only a doll, I felt that I had lost a part of myself.”
“That’s a beautiful name! So ‘Rain’ it is! And have you considered yet which country you’d like to visit?”
“I’ve seen the list of countries where The Our Little Secret Travel Agency has spas, and I think I’d like to go to the one in Switzerland. I know I won’t see Jerinda there, but just knowing she’s in the same country will be a comfort to me.”
“Our spa in Switzerland is truly lovely. And I think your choosing the name ‘Rain’ and going to the mountains just might help you to recover a couple other parts of yourself that you may have lost along the way.”
Both Morgana and Dr. Valenzuela are both beaming big smiles.
“So, Morgana, what do you say? Are you ready for your Adaptation?”
Morgana gets to her feet, stretches, and says, “Let’s do it!”
With her feet back into those awful Crapezoids, by God, she’s ready for anything.
To be Continued in Chapter 5: The Adaptation
Photo Credit: http://www.tofugu.com