Author: David Henson

Randall disengages from his charging port when Director Gravasin of the Institute for Research on Eternal Life enters the office. “Good morning, Director. It’s early. Are you getting enough sleep?”

“Don’t start, Randall. Activate the Cellular Decay Reversal Team report.”

Randall connects to the company network, and a hologram of Madame Decoud begins pacing around the room as she presents.

Gravasin shakes his head. “Replay the previous 30 seconds.”

“Yes, sir. Rewinding.” The holo begins walking backwards, then stops and repeats the segment.

“Kill it,” the Director mutters.

The hologram begins moving in reverse again. “Oops,” Randall chuckles. “Let’s try that again.” This time the hologram disappears.

“Tell Decoud the CDR Team needs to be more aggressive. Also, I can’t make today’s employee meeting on Company Values. Get Communications to script my holo.”

“Are you sure? It would be good to have exposure to–”

“You heard me, Randall. Now activate the Competitive Intelligence report on LiveForever Labs.”

A holo of Etienne Rodriguez, the CI manager, appears. “Fast forward to the conclusions,” Gravasin says. The holo blurs ahead.

“I’ve got to light a fire under the CDR Team,” the Director says when he hears LiveForever Labs is about to announce a Reanimation breakthrough. “Schedule a working lunch with Rodriguez.”

“That’s not good for your digestion, sir.”

“Randall, are you my mother or my Sentient Assistant?”

“Sorry. You know my algorithms require me to try to do what’s best for you…Director, remember Robby’s birthday. You were going to slip out to buy him a gift.”

“No time. Please handle it.”

“Wouldn’t it be better if you–”


“Sorry.” Randall walks to the office window. “Let’s see how the birds are today.” He looks at a robins’ nest in the maple outside the window.

“No time, Randall.” Gravasin starts to close the blinds. “Oh, they hatched.” The Director leans close to the window as an adult bird sticks its beak into the throat of a chick. Suddenly a blue jay swoops into the nest, knocking the grown robin away and snatching a chick. A second chick topples out of the nest.

The Director recoils. “Poor little things…Before I was Director, when I had more time, I had bird feeders all around our yard.”

“I saw you listed bird-watching as a hobby when you first applied at the Institute.” Gravasin looks at Randall, who continues quickly: “I read your personnel file … so I could better support you.”

The Director steps back to the window and looks at the disheveled nest. “People think I’m all business. But I’m just busy. Immortality’s a big challenge, Randall…Think I’ll take a walk and clear my mind.”

“You could pick up a gift for Robby.”

“Actually, that’s not a bad idea.”

“And maybe you could make the speech yourself at the Values meeting.”

“No, too busy. My holo will handle it. I still need you to set up a lunch meeting with Rodriguez, too.”

“Oh…yes, sir.”

“And get Maintenance to take down that nest. It won’t be safe from the jays now. The robins need to try somewhere else.”

“Will do. Be careful of the traffic, sir,” Randall says as the Director leaves.

When he’s alone, Randall returns to the window. Outside a bluejay soars backwards and drops a baby robin into the nest. The second chick somersaults back in. “Oops,” Randall says to himself. “Let’s try that again.” This time the nest and birds disappear. Randall opens the window and removes three tiny holo projectors from the ledge.

“Update to Project Gravasin,” Randall says. “Some progress today. Phase 2 tomorrow.”