Steve O'NeilSteve O'Neil's Novels & Other Fiction

Copy & Waste

A Short Story
By Stephen O'Neil

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It had been 10 years since Grigori Andreev had settled in his new home. He opened his eyes with a start and looked over at the wall to his right. Four thirty five was the time. He had fallen asleep in his chair after lunch once again. This was happening more and more as the disease advanced. There was still no name for it, though he had heard another victim joke that it would most likely be named after the first person to die from it. Grigori suspected that could very well be him.

Grigori was not an old man. He had reached the age of fifty only the previous year, yet his appearance made him look elderly. There was little hair left, and what remained was an uneven collection of wispy grey tufts around the sides. There was also little remaining of his once ample moustache. His complexion displayed a sickly pallor, deep set eyes framed by dark rings that seemed to sag beneath his heavy brow. When he had first begun to experience the bouts of nausea and migraines several years earlier, the base physician had initially feared it was a brain tumour. He now wished it was. Unlike a brain tumour, medical science had not yet devised a reliable cure for what afflicted him. All that had been determined is that it was unlike any disease encountered on earth. Only people who had spent extended periods of time on Mars had experienced it. Researchers had tried to link it to the differences in gravity, radiation levels or any one of a number of other factors but so far attempts to locate either a cause or cure had been met with frustration.

Grigori had accepted it, even embraced it. He merely wished that he could continue to contribute to mankind as best as he could until the illness finally rendered him unable to contribute any more. That was his way. That had always been his way. Ever since his family had left their Russian homeland in the final years of the twentieth century to settle in a quiet suburb of Australia, he had learned to work hard and enjoy the satisfaction that came from doing his part to make the world a better place.

He straightened in the chair, adjusting the headset which rested on his forehead and extended around his crown. He resented not being able to use a keyboard anymore. His arms no longer had the strength to type for any length of time. Some of his colleagues found his preference for typing amusing but he had always preferred it. In some ways it marked him as an old timer in his profession. In any case, he reasoned, he hadn’t spent all that time learning to touch type for nothing.

As he allowed the neural interface receiver to synch with his thought patterns he cast his mind back over the years which had brought him here. He enjoyed his work. Being the Chief Information Officer on a mining base over one hundred million kilometres from his place of birth was not something he had ever imagined. He knew his current title was more honourary than anything. His condition made it impossible to do the work he used to. His long relationship with his boss meant that he had been able to stay with the company where he might have otherwise been forced in to a comfortable, but unwanted retirement.

He and his boss went back a long way. Nearly as far back as the turn of the century. Grigori was studying at the University of Western Australia to be a Neurologist, but it was his studies linking the structure of the human brain to artificial intelligence which had caught the eye of Arthur Roberts. After reading some of Grigori’s research papers, Arty had immediately offered him a job in the fledgling Arthur Roberts Artificial Limbs & Organs. Of course ARALO Limited was now one of the most recognised and successful companies of modern times and Arty, with the help of Grigori’s breakthroughs, had become one of the wealthiest and most powerful of men.

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