Book 0: Chapter 2


It didn’t make sense.

Daichi watched dopamine transporters leave the hypothalamic mesh. This was the third sample in three days, and the dopamine levels weren’t falling. He’d tested each sample twice, but all of the tests seemed to remain stable. He rested his head in his hands and started taking deep breaths. Serotonin, oxytocin, and now dopamine remained constant in the mesh for about three days. There was no denying that. Maybe there was something corrupted in the mesh? That was the only explanation. Because if these tests were right...

"Need a break pal?", Hanzō smiled.

Daichi slowly stood back up and looked about the lab. He blinked twice and looked at his assistant. "I think so. Maybe I do. These numbers don’t seem to make sense."

"It happens to all of us. They’re dropping off worse than you’d hoped? It’s okay, they won’t lay you off for it."

"No" he started to say, "They actually appear to be stable. Consistent even."

Hanzō stared dumbfounded, "What do you mean they’re consistent?"

"They’ve fluctuated only point two percent in three days."

"Are you going to tell the boss man about it? This is a big deal!" he smiled, "this can put you on the map!"

"But this is bigger than just me" Daichi whispered. "This isn’t even what we’re testing for"

Hanzō paused and furrowed his brows, "You know what this can mean."

"I do" Daichi replied.

He paused again and looked down at the floor, "Then I’ll support however you want to handle it. I mean I owe you that. Talk it over with Ayami. We don’t need to report on it ‘til tomorrow."

"Thank you" Daichi nodded.

Several hours later, Daichi returned to his apartment. The darkness of the city reflected through his window, and the only available light came from a small lamp on an end table, positioned next to his wife Ayami on the couch. She wore a thin red sweater and held a celebrity magazine in her hands. She turned to her husband as he took off his shoes.

"Welcome back!" she said, "You’re home late."

"Sorry, I had to go for a walk" he said, "There was a lot on my mind."

"Had to?" she patted the empty cushion next to her, "Sit down. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on at work."

Daichi walked over and sat by her side. "On repeated dosage, the positivity chemicals aren’t degrading anywhere near expected deviations. If this principle carried through to a non-simulated mesh..."

"Daichi", she smiled and paused, "We’ve talked about this. You know I don’t speak your language. I want to talk about this, but you have to simplify it for me."

He took a deep breath and crouched forward, "You know the research I’ve been doing?"

"Yeah, you’re making chemicals so that people in comas can be happy."

"That is basically true. Stimulating the part of the brain that produces the ‘happy chemicals’; dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin is fairly simple. The problem is that stimulating them the same way is progressively less effective - like watching the same show over and over again, your brain gets bored. My job was to find a way to vary the stimulation enough that it delays the effects of neurological boredom."

"So what’s the problem? Is it getting too complicated?"

"No. I’m afraid I did my job too well" he paused, "instead of the euphoria dying down slowly, it doesn’t seem to be dying down at all. All of the chemicals are steady. They don’t decrease over time at all."

"Isn’t that good then?"

"No, it’s not good!", he clenched his fists, "What we have here is a solution for infinite sustained happiness! A chemical that if administered, can give someone a high forever"

"I see you’re mad" she hesitated, "But I don’t understand why..."

"I’m sorry" he started, "But if this were abused, people could plug themselves away from the outside world. They might choose to stay in a coma forever. The potential for abuse is astronomical."

"Are you afraid for Hanzō?"

"What? No! This has nothing to do with him."

"Are you sure? Once a druggy..."

"He had issues in college. That was ten years ago. But he’s been nothing but great as my assistant."

"He was passed out for two days, but fine. I won’t argue with you over details" she looked away, "So you’re afraid that people will inject this into their arms on the street?"

"Oh, no. That’s impossible. You would need a steady injection, plus the nutrients that produce the ‘happy chemicals’ in the first place. You would need to be plugged into a machine."

"Oh", she smiled. "Then what’s there to worry about? No drug-user is going to have a machine to plug into."

"I don’t think you understand how big this is" he said, "People could volunteer to be in comas for decades and be fed the solution I engineered! Anyone depressed about their life wouldn’t turn to drugs - they’d turn to a numb bedside prison that they would be too happy to wake up from."

Daichi paused and let that sentence hang in the air. He was convinced that this was a monumental decision, and became hyperaware of his sights, thoughts, and smells, as if this moment was frozen in time, preserved for all of history. He felt the couch through his pants, and the feeling of carpet through his shoes. The moment was committed to memory, and one he was determined to never forget.

"What are even your options here?" his wife said, breaking the silence.

"I could lie. I could pretend my research is only partially effective. It would be used on coma patients as designed, but no one would know what it can really do."

"I don’t think that’s smart. Be honest and let the higher-ups worry about the fate of humanity. With all due respect honey, I think you’re over-thinking it."

"Maybe you’re right" he said, still hunched over. He still felt the weight of the moment, as if all of his ancestors had their eyes on him right there and then.

"When I went on my walk" he started to say, "I thought about the American scientist Oppenheimer" he leaned back on the couch, "He was the creator of the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For a long time, he was just another scientist on just another project, until he saw his creation during the Trinity tests. He witnessed the explosion and felt compelled to quote Hindu scripture. He met with the American president a year later and remarked that he felt he had ‘blood on his hands’", Daichi looked down, "I’ve often thought about what must have gone through his head at that test site. As if that was the moment he knew he’d left a distinguishable mark on history, and everything that followed was irrevocably his fault" Daichi paused, "I can’t help but feel that way now."

"You’re being melodramatic", Ayami replied, reading her magazine.

"Maybe" Daichi said, "But I just can’t shake that feeling..."