I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to work with Clovis Bray. No more clawing for research grants. No more hopping universities. The volunteers enlisted for this study are likewise in good spirits.
Patient A, Susan, believes with all her heart in the colonization effort and will do anything to support it. Twelve hours have passed since injection with Magnificence 2.0. Her vital signs are strong, but she complains of phantom insects.
Regrettably, Patient B entered a coma minutes after injection with Brilliance 3.2. Vital signs remain normal. Homeostasis preserved. While cause for concern, I do not think it necessary to table this study and will proceed.
Patient D, Yaris, is here to support his family. Clovis Bray allowances are sufficient but not generous, and there's another child on the way. He is sorry to be separated from them but glad for the volunteer's stipend.
No changes in general health were observed after injection with Fortitude 3.1, but the volume of his voice decreased significantly and is at present a whisper. Unexpected but not cause for alarm.
Patient E, Jun, has been uncooperative. Laughed unpleasantly when I told him he would receive Glory 2.1.
"You're running prototypes in parallel because it's cheaper and faster," he said. "No ethics board on Earth would approve. But I don't have a choice. I’m neck-deep in debt to Clovis Bray."
I wish we had tweaked these elixirs to modify disposition.
Patient A remains healthy and cheerful, despite a low buzzing in her ear. She has referred to the phantom insects so frequently and with such confidence that I'm starting to imagine them. Blue, darting things. There's a word for this phenomenon, where the patient's reality becomes the researcher's, but I do not remember it.
We did tag this variant with a blue colorant, for our own scans, but the patient should not have known. I will call it coincidence.
Patient C reports yellow artifacts on the edge of her vision but remains excited about the potential of this project. She argued for taking strength and intelligence tests three times a day rather than daily. I saw no harm in this. There were clear improvements in her performance six hours after injection, in line with results from the other conscious patients.
This innovative therapy holds great promise for our colonization program. We can cut years off the construction timetable of a city. We can reduce the decompression and adjustment period of new colonists. This is a world-changing study, and I am glad to have such a motivated subject.
I can see them now. Blue beadlike or beelike particles swarming around Patient A's head. I wonder what took me so long.
This effect was not intentional. We directed the nanoparticles to strengthen the subject's immune system, reinforce skeletons, exoskeletons, joints, and musculature, and accelerate synapse and logic board signaling. This should all have been invisible and internal. What does it mean?
This is the second day that Patient B continues comatose. Hydration and nutrition support have been enabled. Vital signs are good. Green particles appear to be accumulating on his lips and nostrils. I have not observed similar consequences for other patients and am wondering if this was an idiosyncratic reaction.
Patient C insists that I call her Kit. She says she has been fighting all her life for an advantage and finally has it, and she's not about to let it go. She has broken several pieces of equipment in exhilaration, in addition to a large quantity of glassware.
"Let me at 'em!" she said. "Give me something to fight!"
Yaris can't speak or make any sound at all. We do not know whether this condition is permanent. He lets me know what he requires, whether water or food, by typing, but has been reserved about his own thoughts. I find it difficult to look him in the eye.
Patient A appears to be walking two inches above the ground. It is unclear why this has happened. The soles of her feet have turned blue. She is alarmed and delighted by turn. This of course complicates our strength tests.
Jun has refused to perform required strength and intelligence tests. He has accused me, Willa Bray, and the Clovis Bray corporation of nefarious purposes thirty-two times since injection.
"Clovis Bray destroys the world to remake it in their own image. That's their goal. Look at me—the first step to your perfect colonist. But I'm just a prototype. You know what happens to prototypes, Dr. Shirazi."
I am not sure how this subject passed the psychological screen.
Visual observation suggests good health, despite the nimbus of white particles around his head.
Yesterday, with a wild yell, Patient B sat up, then started singing and dancing. Tried to calm him but was unsuccessful. He has not stopped since regaining consciousness. I have heard all the songs of his childhood, half the pop hits of the past century, and improvised ballads about his life. He's owned two dogs and six cats and I know all their names.
I'll call her Susan. I'll call them all by their names. It breaks protocol but feels like the right thing to do.
Susan took the news in silence. She appears resigned.
I am not resigned.
I ran into his room at the sudden silence, but he was already gone.
When I disclosed Patient B's clinical outcome, as required by exception 31B in the Research Regulations Handbook, Patient C said, "How could you do this to us?" I had no answer. My predecessor's experimental records had not suggested any lethality. A 20% mortality rate would counterbalance the increase in colonist strength, intelligence, and speed.
Yaris remains mute. I regret not incorporating a self-annihilation function in these prototypes. I was too confident. I didn't believe I needed a failsafe. I will propose that we include this in future nanotech development.
The mixed blessing is that our results are solid. Further research will be rewarding. Yet I find myself hesitating to write the recommendation to proceed.
He said, "Everything and everyone dies. The more you try to cheat death, the more you try to profit from life, the sooner we die."
Today I went into Willa Bray's files to look for warning signs, any hint of what happened to Patient B, anything I might have missed. I found optimistic profit charts and a terse order to suppress some amount of data. The data itself is unavailable to researchers at my access level.
Am I complicit?
"I am doing everything I can," I said.
"That's not enough," she said, and turned her back.
I do not have the training, or the knowledge, or the wisdom for this.
"Project results suggest…"
"Experimental outcomes imply…"
And I stop and look at Yaris through the glass. He is eating less and losing weight and hair.
I said, "You must understand. I'm trying. I wanted to see us among the stars. I ran this study because I dreamed of exploring the unknown and making new places home. I dreamed of the whole universe becoming our home."
Jun said, "You don't even have a home here. They treat you with suspicion. You're not a Bray. Why did you come to Mars? Do you have no home on Earth?"
"I don't," I said.
These prototypes are too deeply embedded in my subjects' systems to extract by force. Organs, neurons, frontal cortex... Even complete hemodialysis would be insufficient.
I must find another way. For Susan. For Yaris. For Kit. Maybe even for Jun.
I said: Forgive me. He said: Only if.
Even if I cure him, would he speak to me again? I've never run an experiment with lethal outcomes or permanent disabilities. I never thought I would.
Long and sleepless nights. My whole staff in isolation suits, bent over our microscopes. But we have discovered a solution, I think. We have not tested it on patients yet, only pure prototype samples. If we toggle Fibrons 7, 21, and 16 across all nanoparticles with pulses of particular wavelengths, enough interference should be generated to render them dormant.
I go now to try it on Susan, who lost consciousness yesterday. Even prone, she floats an inch above her sleeping surface.
At least this much of my conscience is clear. Susan left our facilities today, walking on the ground. Not quite smiling. None of us are smiling. We don't know what the long-term effects might be. But she appears healthy, for now.
They did not see me behind the door.
Jun said, "We have to tell the truth about Clovis Bray. We know. They don't."
"We have to be cautious," Kit said.
"We'll be alone for a while. No one will believe us. At first.
"I've been through harder things.""
"Thank you," he said. He walked out of the facility, a thin, slight shape against the red light reflecting off the dunes. The last to recover, and the last to leave.
After I sent my research staff home, I entered Clovis Bray’s data isolation chamber with borrowed credentials. I had to know. My predecessor’s annotations are sparse, but I believe the data from previous trials show mortality rates of 50-60% for the last generation of injectable biotech. I should have been informed of this.
My report will begin with the words: "Unacceptable, demonstrated risks preclude further human trials at this time." I must make Willa Bray see that this way lies disaster.