Eugene was a ball of nerves, while he really didn’t have any doubt in his creation’s ability to perform or in Victoria’s ability to make it shine for the crowd this was the real deal. For the first time they were really going to show A.D.A.M. off to the world and nobody was prepared for it.
He felt as though he needed to stand up like someone accepting a Grammy award and give a speech, ‘This goes out to all the people who said I would fail, all the teachers who said I wouldn’t amount to anything and all my colleagues who said my ideas were shit!’ he chuckled to himself at the absurdity of the thought.
The presenter before them was just wrapping up, he had been showing a new polymer that had the look and feel of human flesh but was much more resilient than the ones that were on the market currently. The drawback was, of course, that it was twice as expensive and would need a skeleton inside in order to keep its shape.
He gave himself a mental shake and tried to focus. He could hear the announcer start to talk over the applause as the presenter made his way off the other side of the stage.
“Now for something different, something revolutionary, an innovation that has the potential to completely change the way we look at the world of prosthetics, limb replacement and the role of science in medicine. We have seen his ideas before and he is back today with a new prototype for your review. Please help me in welcoming Dr. Eugene Arlington to the stage!”
One or two people clapped but the auditorium was completely silent by the time he reached the podium. Sweat was pouring down his back and the tie around his neck suddenly was too tight. Once he reached the podium the lights dimmed slightly and the projector lit up a large screen behind him. One thing was for sure, with that little Korean girl in the control booth he didn’t need to worry about the effects being off.
On the screen, a slowly rotating image of the prosthetic was displayed as he began his talk, “Ladies, gentlemen and distinguished members of the medical community I stand before you today knowing that those of you who have seen me present before are skeptical about the implementation of the technology I am going to show you.” The graphic of the prosthetic stopped spinning and merged with a human form.
“I was going to begin with a discussion about current prosthetic options and their limitations but I am aware you are all acquainted with the issues inherent in the field. So instead of boring you with a bunch of theory and a PowerPoint presentation I thought I would just show it to you and let you decide if current equipment or the new technology I have developed better fits the needs of your patients.” He paused to take in the confused expressions on their faces, “Victoria, if you would come out please?”
Victoria stalked out on stage like she was walking the runway, absolutely owning the stage in that fantastic dress she’d gotten from Dmitri. No, he realized it wasn’t the dress or the shoes, it was her bearing, so confident and certain. She stopped in the center of the stage and slowly spun to show the prosthetic seamlessly integrated into her back.
“Less than a year ago this young woman was told that she would never walk again. Bone cancer had invaded her spine and was threatening her entire body. Her options were limited to extreme chemotherapy that had a very real chance of killing her or simply letting the cancer end her life until she bravely decided to attempt an experimental therapy.
“My fully cyberized, robotic spinal cord replacement has literally given her a second chance at an active and healthy life. Powered by a work of programming genius, Artificial Directed Autonomous cerebreuM or ADAM for short is a true piece of adaptive software that assists in the management of the device and the routing of the body’s data.”
Victoria walked to the podium and bent to speak into the microphone, “I owe Dr. Arlington my life. His revolutionary medical device saved me from at best a life spent in a wheelchair. As you can see, I have regained one hundred percent mobility, balance and motor control.” She stepped back from the podium and stood to his left beaming that stunning smile of hers at the shocked audience.
An explosion of questions erupted from the crowd and Eugene held up his hands, “One at a time, let’s have them one at a time please. Can we start here and move across to the left?” The first person stood up.
“Hi, Jared Fredrickson here. I’m sure I’m asking for every straight man in the room when I ask… are you single? No, only joking. Tell me about the integration. How was it for you? Were there any glitches or bumps in the road?”
Victoria ignored his rudeness and picked up the mic from the podium. “I think you all know about how long it takes people to adjust to most standard prosthetics. Even something as small as a hand or a foot can take years, not that those are inconsequential things to lose but they are certainly less intrusive than mine.
“I have had this prosthetic for exactly four months, six days ten hours and thirty seven minutes and the integration is complete and seamless.” She spun in a circle balanced on the sharp heel of her right stiletto, something that seemed nearly impossible and gave them that dazzling smile again.
Another one of the audience members stood, “I’m Dr. Anders, I would like to take a closer look at your … device if I could?” The doubt was clear on his voice.
“Certainly Dr, while you’re making your way up to the stage I thought I’d run a daily diagnostic so you can see it unfiltered.” She walked to the podium and accepted the cable from Eugene, gracefully pulling her hair out of the way and plugging it into the port on the base of her skull.
“Could I get the VGA from the podium up on the projector please?” The screen refreshed and the familiar daily log checking screen was displayed on the wall. Dr. Anders, that old skeptic paused and watched with interest as Victoria put the AI through its paces.
“I haven’t run this yet today so it should show logs from last night. Here we see the packaged reports from last night, the routing tables, any data collisions and the traffic history reports. As you can see the device itself requires periodic maintenance and that schedule is listed here on the left. Any major errors get recorded here and are part of the daily package for transmission. If there were bug fixes to the operating system from the night before they will be loaded at the same time.”
“Could I trouble you to show us a bug fix that has been uploaded?” Dr. Anders was now standing at the base of the stairs that led to the stage, “From what I can see here it looks like all the logs came back clean. I find it difficult to believe that this device has been operating perfectly this entire time.”
The room was dead silent. Eugene couldn’t hold himself back anymore. “What exactly are you implying Anders? That I’m making it all up? Do you expect to come up here and see that we’ve glued a piece of plastic to her back? If I wasn’t so positively certain that this is a world changing technology that works as designed I’d tell you off. Instead I’m just going to make you eat your words.”
Victoria was already pulling up an event log from a couple days prior, “Here’s a bug, there was a routing error between two points, I’m not sure what they are, but it was reported to the main system here.” She circled the reporting time with the cursor, “And here you can see on the next day’s sync it pulls a bug fix file which is loaded into the Host system. I almost never pay attention to them because I haven’t had an error large enough that it impacted me directly.”
She leaned down and gave him an indulgent smile, “Did you still want to physically inspect the unit? Come on up.” Eugene envied her vocal control, she sounded indulgent, as though she was simply humoring him but wasn’t quite condescending enough to be insulting. It didn’t go unnoticed either, Anders got a little red in the face and a few people in the crowd chuckled. To his credit though, he stuck to his guns.
“If you don’t mind I would still like to take a closer look at it.” He walked up the stairs and over to where she was standing.
“While Dr. Anders satisfies his curiosity are there other questions?” Victoria was surprisingly calm and steady despite being under the proverbial microscope. Eugene supposed she was used to being the center of attention what with cheerleading and all, even though this was a slightly different situation.
Another man stood up promptly, “This one’s for Dr. Arlington. What is the estimated cost of one of these units?” The crowd hushed again.
“I thought this would be the first question judging by the audience.” Eugene got a couple rueful laughs out of that one, “I am not sure what a production price would be, but I will say the R&D that went into this particular unit is astronomical. The majority of the materials themselves aren’t all that rare though so I would imagine the price of production would be around forty to fifty thousand dollars.
“The retail? Well that’s another matter entirely. What would you pay to be able to walk again?” He let that sink in for a moment.
Dr. Anders was shaking his head in bewilderment, “How in the world did you get it to graft so cleanly? The skin seems to have bonded to the unit as though it grew there on its own. Not only that but I see minimal scarring, it’s so slight I wouldn’t even call it a blemish. I have to hand it to you Arlington, this is a real piece of art. I’m wholly impressed.”
“The grafting process is part of the research, the secret to the smoothness lies in the materials used. My Neurosynth fluid also facilitates a chemical bond between the organic and inorganic components. I can furnish you with a white paper on its composition if you would like to read more on it. Thanks for the compliment, it means a lot coming from a surgeon with your credentials.”
A man in a sharp business suit stood, pulling out a pad of paper and a pen “Hi, my name is Alex Chadwick I’m from the LA Times. I heard you were going to be here and took the liberty of doing a little research. I’ve heard some rumors about there being a group of people who oppose this technology and are claiming you’ve created an abomination. Any comment on that Dr. Arlington?”
“Mr. Chadwick, I know there are people who are resistant to change.” Eugene said dryly, taking a drink of water from a bottle on the podium, “Every time there is a major technological advance there are those who take to the streets screaming about the apocalypse. It is good to scrutinize new developments but eventually even the Catholic Church has admitted that the Earth is round.”
“Do you feel as a doctor and a scientist that there has been adequate peer review of this project?” Alex asked, raising an eyebrow.
Victoria broke in, her voice high pitched with indignation. “Do I LOOK like an abomination to you? Besides, what right do you have to talk about peer review? I know for a fact you are here on vacation and not as a part of any kind of fact finding mission AND that you have a vested interest in making this into a big scandal.”
Everyone turned, surprised at her sudden tirade. She wasn’t holding the microphone, but her voice was transmitted through the auditorium speakers anyway. Nobody else seemed to notice, but Eugene handed her the mic hastily before anyone thought it strange.
Her eyes flashed as she continued, “Your last expose piece didn’t end up too well did it? A big investigation into unethical information gathering and possible plagiarism? I don’t think you have any room for accusing others of wrongdoing Mister Chadwick.”
“I seem to be at a slight disadvantage Miss Victoria.”
“I think it’s more than a slight disadvantage Mister Chadwick. Why don’t you go back home to your wife and child instead of whoring it up here in Sin City with your mistress. Cheaters are losers Mister Chadwick, no exceptions. I’m not answering even one of your slimy questions.” With that she turned and stalked off the stage, leaving Alex gasping like a fish out of water.
Dr. Franklin walked in from the wings and took the microphone from the podium, “I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for questions, we have a lot of other presenters to get through today. Thank you Dr. Arlington and Miss Scott, any other follow up can take place in the exhibit hall, otherwise we have each presenter’s contact information on our website.”
There was a clamor from the crowd but Eugene waved, smiled and walked off stage. “Let them come to me now.” He thought to himself, “The showboating douchebags are finally out of the way, time to let those who can really afford to buy this technology step forward.”