Dr. Zeigler stands in a sterile elevator tapping his leather loafers on the floor as a bell went off as it past each floor. He glanced at his watch hoping for this to be a short meeting. Dr. Zeigler already missed his sons’ championship soccer game today due to new breakthrough in his memory research and hopes to make it up to his family by at least arriving home for dinner. It’s been a while since the family been together at the dinner table. Anneliese yelled at him last night for coming home so late, feeling like he has placed higher priority on his work over his family and taking all the responsibility on managing their kids.
The elevator arrived at his destination, the top floor of the office building. The steel doors opened and he walked towards the reception desk.
“Barnaby Rudiger wanted to see me?”
“Ah yes Dr. Zeigler. He is expecting you. You may enter.” Dr. Zeigler quickly opened the wooden door with a gold plated tag “Dr. Barnaby Rudiger| President of Research and Development” engraved in it. Barnaby was sitting at his large wooden desk with a bald man dressed in a military uniform sitting comfortably on one of the couches in front of it.
“Zeigler! Have a seat. I got some exciting news for you,” exclaimed Barnaby is a booming voice. Dr. Zeigler sat in a couch adjacent to the one the military man was sitting in. “Let me introduce you to Lieutenant Oswin from the DoD.”
“Nice to finally meet you Dr. Zeigler” Lt. Oswin stretched out his right arm for a handshake. The cold feel of the lieutenant’s hand sent a chill down Dr. Zeigler’s spine during the firm greeting.
“It’s my pleasure. What can I do for you sir?” What does the DoD want with my memory research? thought Dr. Zeigler.
“I hear you are making great progress on your memory device in curing Alzheimer. The DoD see this device as a way to cure PTSD. It will save us tons of taxpayer dollars in hiring psychologist and a quicker, more effective way of adjusting soldiers back to civilian life.”
“Because of this interest, the DoD will be sending money and resources to accelerate your research!” exclaimed Barnaby. “No longer you will have to use out dated machinery and worry about running out of money for your research.”
“However there are some conditions you must follow. You must report all developments regarding your research and the device associated with it. You must use the subjects we provide for you. They have had their background and biological information analyzed to meet our standards. All of these rules are also applied to your assistants. Do you have any questions?”
“Will it be possible for me to request resources outside what is given to me by the DoD?”
“You can request anything you need to accomplish the goal of completing your research however not all requests will be guaranteeing to be fulfilled as they are first reviewed by us.”
“Will I have time to spend with my family? I would like to spend more time with my kids.”
“Yes, we will make sure you will be working with more reasonable hours. We understand the importance of family. If you need time off, just let us know.”
There seem to be a long list of restrictions imposed by the DoD but the opportunity to actually finish his research on time and actually have time to spend with the family was too tempting for Dr. Zeigler. With better machinery and increase man power, he can finally be able to spend more time with his family. Anneliese will be so happy with this news. “Lieutenant Oswin, I will be happy to work with the DoD in solving the cure for Alzheimer and PTSD.”
“Great! I have the contract right here. Just need both of you to sign.” Barnaby pulled out a piece of paper and placed it in front of them. With a gleaming ballpoint pen, both men sign the contract.
“I need to go home to tell my family the good news!” Dr. Zeigler could not contain his excitement.
“I look forward to working with you.” Lt. Oswin and Dr. Zeigler stood up and shook hands. Dr. Zeigler picked up his suitcase and quickly left the office. It was already 7:30pm. He probably arrives around the time they will be finishing dinner but at least he will finally be home before midnight.
Dr. Zeigler parked his car in the driveway and rush to the front door. It was already 8:30. Due to terrible traffic, he got home later than expected.
“Honey? I’m home!” Dr. Zeigler said as he entered his home. “Damon? Emmerich?” There was no response. He stood in the empty dark kitchen waiting for someone to pop out. He pulled out his flip phone and called Anneliese.
*Ring* *Ring* *Ring* “Please leave a message after the tone.” *Beeeeep.*Dr. Zeigler closed his phone and wonder where his wife and kids could be at this hour? He opened the refrigerator and there was a container of left over spaghetti and meatballs next to a stack of fat free yogurt. He placed the spaghetti in the microwave and popped open a bottle of bear. Dr. Zeigler took is meal to the living room to enjoy some late night TV.
It’s around 9:30pm and the Dr. was lying on the couch with a blanket as he stared listlessly at the television set.
“Woohoo! Yay! Thanks Mom!” The front door opened. Anneliese and two energetic 8 year olds entered the home.
“Oh! You’re home. Thought you will be working late again” exclaimed Anneliese.
“Our team made some good progress today so worked ended early. I tried calling you but you didn’t pick up. Where were you guys.”
“You should try ask the boys something first.” Anneliese was clearly disappointed with Dr. Zeigler in missing the boys big day.
The Dr. faced his two boys and asked how the soccer tournament was. Damon and Emmerich couldn’t contain their excitement. “We won!” the two boys yelled out in unison as they ran in front of the Dr. jumping up and down. “It was so much fun!” “The other team had no chance.” They were running in circles energized by their big win.
“Wow! Congratulations! Want me to take you guys out for ice cream?”
“They need to get to bed and Emmerich has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so he will need to get up early. Time for bed” Anneliese said as she stared at the boys.
“But Mooooooommmmm! I want to stay up and play some Pokemon!!” complained Emmerich.
“No Emmerich, you need to see the doctor tomorrow. Go to bed now.” Anneliese pointed at the stairs and the boys rushed upstairs with disappointed faces. Anneliese took out her cell phone and saw she missed a call. “I didn’t hear my phone go off. The team went to Chuck E’ Cheese’s to celebrate their win. I have a giant stuff animal mouse in the car from all tickets they earned from playing tons of arcade games. I guess you couldn’t make it to the tournament…” She stared at him with a cold glare.
“I know I promised you and the boys that I would be there but today we started moving our research to the next phase and it took a bit longer than expected. However I have some good news too!” Dr. Zeigler hoped this good news would cheer Anneliese up from his disappointment in missing the game. “The DoD has recognized our work at the company and will be sending us money and resources.”
“Caspian. Do you understand that you missed you sons’ final championship soccer match! You should have been there not for me but for your sons. I understand your research is important but family is important too.” Anneliese was extremely disappointed by her husband and went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine. Caspian chased after her.
“But this is good news! With backing from the DoD, I will have all the latest equipment at my finger tips and resources I need to speed up this process. This will allow me to actually be home for dinner and free up some of my weekends to spend time with the kids!”
“Alright, but you better lay some ground rules and don’t let the DoD push you around just because they are part of the government.”
“I assured me that I will be home at reasonable time and weekends to spend time with the kids. Don’t worry honey, if there are any problems, I will make sure you are the first one to know.” Caspian walked over the dinner table where Anneliese was sitting and kissed her on the forehead. “I will tuck the boys into bed tonight? Ok?”
“Ok.” Anneliese and Caspian held hands as they walked up the staircase. He tucked the boys in to bed, headed to his bedroom and changed into his pajamas. As we went to snuggle next to Anneliese he thought to himself how the situation with family will become better. He wanted to be a better father, a person that his sons can look up to and seek for help. He wanted to see them grow up and the opportunity for that to happen has come.
A few months have passed and everything was going great. Dr. Zeigler was making great progress on his research in curing Alzheimer while helping the DoD in using his research to find a cure for PTSD. He was also home 6 pm sharp to spend dinner time with the family. Some nights he even cooked! Anneliese always had a “backup dinner” incase Caspian’s cooking didn’t turn out as he expected.
“Hey Dr. Zeigler, I have the preliminary results from the testing on Patient B7 from last week. All the data seems to point in the right direction.” Dr. Erhard, one of Dr. Zeigler’s assistant, handed him a manila folder with data and images regarding Patient B7. “The patient is in room Alpha waiting for you to perform the post-experiment interview.”
“Cool. Thanks Dr. Erhard.” Dr. Zeigler walked to room Alpha and conducted his interview. The patient successfully remembered his name, family members, his home town, the layout of his home and his favorite hobbies. He still had trouble remembering his profession, work and friends. It was all within the expected parameters. Dr. Zeigler thanked the patient and exited the room. As he was looking over the data, he heard a low moaning noise coming from Testing Room Psi. Intrigue to what it was, the Dr. entered the testing room. On the examination table in the middle of the room was an unconscious man strapped down. His head and arms were covered in sweat. Concerned for the man, Dr. Zeigler tried talking and shaking the man to make him wake up. The man just kept moaning but did not appear to wake up. On the counter next to him was his memory helmet and he placed it on the man. Dr. Zeigler looked at the computer monitor to see if he could wake this person up through electrical impulses but something shocked him.
Nothing was being returned from the helmet. All there was were empty data packets. To the Dr., this didn’t make sense. There was always some information in the human brain that the helmet could read like walking and breathing but in this case there was nothing. It’s like this person didn’t have a brain. He went to the helmet to make sure that it was not broken. All the pieces were there and the repair light was not on. It was perfectly functional. This device was signed out to the DoD for their testing on PTSD. Why were they using it on a person with no ability to live? Then it struck the Dr. why this person was in this state but he had to make sure. If his theory was correct then everything he was working towards would be in question.
For the next few days, Dr. Zeigler kept secret watch on Testing Room Psi. All the patients who walked in appeared to be normal soldiers, maybe a little distressed but still had the ability to function as a normal human. However over time, these soldiers became less and less human. Fewer emotions were being revealed and eventually they seemed like walking corpses. He couldn’t confront the DoD. They were too powerful. He needed to see Barnaby. Maybe he could help the Dr. out from this predicament.
Dr. Zeigler took the elevator to Barnaby’s office but he was not there. The receptionist told him that Barnaby wouldn’t be back till next week as he is attending an important companywide gathering. This was terrible. Dr. Zeigler wanted to stop the DoD from continuing their testing. We went back to Testing Room Psi. Fortunately no one was there so he entered the room and modified the memory helmet. He hoped this will prevent the DoD from using his device for unethical practices.
When Caspian returned home for dinner, Anneliese noticed that he was unusually quiet at the dinner table. She tried to ask him about work and if everything was ok. Caspian reassured her that everything was fine but really it wasn’t. He didn’t what his family get involved with his research or with the government.
Over the next couple weeks Dr. Zeigler noticed that he was getting fewer resources than he normally would and communication between him and Lt. Oswin became non-existent. He went to Barnaby to ask what was going on. Barnaby has been kept in the dark like the Dr. on the DoD movements. Dr. Zeigler took this opportunity to tell Barnaby what he suspects the DoD was doing with his research and wanted his help to put a stop to it. To Dr. Zeigler, it seems like the DoD was taking his research to the extreme. Instead of using it to eliminate thought patterns related to PTSD, they were outright erasing their memories and turning them into mindless bodies. Barnaby could not believe what was going on but his hands were tied. They signed a contract with the DoD and if the company made a move against the government there will be backlash. The government would be able to escape this situation unscathed.
Dr. Zeigler knew desperate times require desperate measures. He thanked Barnaby and went back to his lab. With his two trusted assistant, Dr. Erhard and Dr. Hildebrand, they formed a plan to stop the DoD from continuing to use their research for nefarious means. The group tried all sorts of things like giving the DoD scientist false data, sabotaging the machinery and even trying to intercept their patients before they reach the testing room. Dr. Zeigler did not want his research in curing Alzheimer to turn into a weapon against the mind.
Unfortunately none of those action impeded the DoD and it seems like they have been accelerating their plans and buffed up security. The scientist felt even more isolated except for the few instances when the DoD needed Dr. Zeigler expertise. Dr. Zeigler felt the responsibility in handing his research on a silver platter to the DoD getting heavier and heavier. The only way to stop them was to stop himself. He had the keys to the “memory kingdom”.
This was a difficult decision since he did not know what would happen if he took this route. It would affect his friends, family and work. He consulted with Dr. Erhard and Hildebrand on the new “identity” he would take and the new place where he would move his family. He needed to tell Anneliese just enough information so their family moves to a new state but not enough that would have the DoD go after her and the kids. He wishes it didn’t come down to this.
After weeks of planning and implementing the day of execution came. In the mist of the night, the three doctors entered Testing Room Omega and strapped Dr. Zeigler on the examination table. His heart was beating rapidly as Dr. Erhard placed a giant metallic helmet on his head while Dr. Hildebrand calibrated the computer that the helmet was connected to. Dr. Ziegler was already having doubts about this plan. What if the DoD does go after this family? What will happen to his two most trusted assistants? Will this change anything? The government had unlimited resources to complete whatever they wanted but at least he will no longer be part of it. He hoped that Dr. Erhard and Dr. Hildebrand will be successful in launching their helmet in curing Alzheimer and not tucked away in a secret laboratory forever.
“Dr. Zeigler, we are about to begin the countdown. Are you sure you want to go through with this?” There was sadness in Dr. Hildebrand’s face. She and Dr. Zeigler have been working together on this project since its inception but here they are at the crossroads. After this moment, he would never see or hear from her again. As a matter of fact he will not remember anyone or anything regarding his memory research.
In a cracked voice, Dr. Zeigler said yes. A giant screen in front of his face displayed giant red numbers decrementing until it reach zero. He gripped the handles next harder and closed his eyes. The dark room filled with blinking lights coming from the helmet. The two doctors stared at the screen to hoping that everything goes according to plan. Tonight will be like all those sleepless nights.
The next day Caspian and Anneliese were packing the car up while the boys were running around in their empty home. The movers came earlier in the day to pick up all their pack furniture and equipment. The Zeiglers were moving out of Sunnyville to be close to Anneliese parents in the next state over. The boys were going to miss all the friends they made at school and the intense soccer games they participated in. But this was for the best. They will be going to one of the top schools in the country, Anneliese found a job there and Caspian will become a Medical Practitioner. As the Zeigler family said their last goodbye to their home, they went on their way to their new home. In a distance behind them was an unmarked black car trailing them into the next chapter of their life.