Friday, November 19, 2004
Where to begin?
Last night, I guess. I did meet up with Kate and Jen after work, and we had a few drinks and went to see The Incredibles and basically had a good time. They didn't refuse to let me pay my way, since this birthday doesn't mean much to me, but it makes a good excuse to hang out. Jen is of the opinion that everyone should have three birthdays scattered throughout the year. My birthday, she says, is in January. Did I ever get a new bike for my birthday when I was a kid? No way. But if you have a shitty "Michelle birthday", well, your "Martin birthday" is just a few months away.
It's an interesting point of view, and we saw a great movie, and under normal circumstances I'd be writing more about it, but bigger things were afoot when I got home at eleven-thirty. When I got to my room, Carter told me that the crazy pregnant woman had been calling all day and had no respect for time zones, calling again at quarter of eleven. I looked at my watch, figured it would only be about nine o'clock in Seattle, and said I'd call her back from the living room. The phone rang right then, though, and it was in fact Nat.
"I'm so glad you're finally home! Listen, I've got someone who wants to talk to you."
I was about to ask what this person had to say that was so important when I heard Nat yell "talk!" from the background, and then "Martin? Listen, you've got to get her to listen to reason--" before the phone was yanked away, but it was enough time to recognize the voice.
My voice, or at least the voice I'd considered mine when I last heard it at the beginning of the year. Well, almost. He wasn't bothering to hide his accent, or maybe that was just panic. Somehow, Nataliya had tracked Alexei Gubanov in my old body down, and it didn't sound like they were having tea.
Nat confirmed that. "We found him. It took us four months and I don't even want to think about what my father paid the private investigators and bounty hunters, but they found the son of a bitch down in Oakland and brought him here."
"Nat - you've got to call the FBI and let them know you have him."
"That was the first thing I was going to do, until these guys showed me what else they found. Open your email."
It took five minutes for the computer to boot up, and Carter grumbled, but I had mail from Nat, with JPG attachments. But these attachments weren't sonograms. These pictures were of four vials, like Mags uses at her work, two with red caps, two with blue, and numbers written on their labels. The numbers on the red ones match, as do the ones on the blues, but they don't match each other. Then there were other pictures, of a laptop with a cable running from its USB port to a black project box that had a hole drilled in the top. A wire came out of the hole and it had a pair of antennae attached to it.
By this point Carter was wide awake, and he knew what he was looking at just as well as I did. I spoke into the phone again. "Is that..."
"Oh, yeah," Nat said. "Somehow, he got himself a new black box and the nano-whatevers to make a couple of switches. Looks like he knows he can't hack being a woman."
"Nat... This is huge. You've got to call the FBI so that they can find out where he got them."
"Not yet. He's been making noise all day about what a good father he'll be, but he's lost that right. Don't you get it, Marty? You can have your old body -- your old life -- back! If the FBI gets hold of this, it will disappear, and you'll probably never have a chance like this again!"
I was just stunned. So was Carter. "Nat," I said, "That's a hell of a thing to offer. And to do... I mean, that's the father of your child you're talking about."
She said he was no father, and that she knew it was a lot to absorb, but that even though the right thing to do in this situation "is so obvious", I could sleep on it and call her back.
Sleep on it. Right. Neither Carter nor I got any sleep. We just sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and hashing it out. She pointed out that it wasn't like I had a boyfriend right now, and that Nat's child deserved a better father than Alexei, and that I could be whole again, something she can never have, because "Carter Drummond" was cremated and scattered to the winds.
But, I responded, am I not whole now? That I freaked out when I just thought Maggie might be pregnant last year; was I ready to be a father, at least in the eyes of the law, in just a couple weeks? And was what I wanted worth Maggie (or someone) not having those vials of nanotech to study?
It was about six-thirty when I finally called Special Agent Khalil Jones. Not because I was absolutely certain of what I really wanted, but this whole situation scared me, the decision was bigger than me, and I wanted the pros involved. Jones told me and Carter to get down to the FBI's Boston office right away so that they could get detailed information. We called in sick to work and went.
It was like May all over again. The agents were nice enough, but persistent, and by noon we were exhausted. That's when they told me that a couple of agents from the Seattle office had nocked on Nat's door, but she wasn't home, and her family wasn't being much help in finding her. Seeing that Carter and I were both running on 30-odd hours without sleep, they sent us back home.
I think I did the right thing. I have to confess, all the female things that I've been taking for granted for months are suddenly feeling strange to me, and I think of being able to walk up to my mother in my old body and have it not be weird and my heart breaks. I made Agent Jones promise that the device and nanos will not just vanish into the bureaucracy, and he's never been anything but straight with me. I'm taking a chance, I know, but there was something about Nat's voice last night - she sounded anxious, desperate, like she hadn't thought things through. And that's not the state of mind in which to make this kind of decision or undertake something which has this much of an effect on people's lives.
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