Between A Hologram And A Hiding Place
The guards carried the old man in. It looked like he was dead, until I noticed his hands twitching; he was asleep. Must've been at least a hundred years old, from the look of him. I motioned for Doctor Tanner. "What do you make of it, Judy?"
"The dark blotches on the skin confirm senility." My fellow doctor noticed the man's twitching, too. "Hmm...could be extensive rheumatoid arthritis. I honestly don't think he'll be able to remember what he did yesterday, much less Grant's murder half a century ago."
Despite Judy's observations, I needed to know the truth. We all did. "We've gotta try, though. Can we get the others in here to help out?"
It seemed I just interrupted the assistants' coffee break. Oh well. It's not like they really do anything anyway. They're not the ones who've been trying to solve this case like I have. "Get him prepped," I told them, "and insert the cortical implant near the brain stem. Let's get started."
We identified the subject as Brandon Porter, a one-hundred-eight year-old who was an accountant for a business firm over on 29th Street almost sixty years ago. Employment records indicate that he quit his job right after Mayor Grant was murdered. Doctor Tanner and I employed the usual psych tests, but they came up fruitless.
Judy was determined to find some way to extrapolate Porter's memories, so she called up one of her old college friends - a "psychoanalyst" - but even he couldn't get through to the centenarian's mind. I could've told her that before she called her hot-shot friend.
Well, maybe that shrink helped us out yesterday, because last night, Porter began talking in his sleep. It was difficult to make out, but I hope Judy and I will be able to get something clearer out of him the next time it happens. Well, I hope it'll happen, anyway. We're slowly running out of options.
"Elliot, what if we use the holographic array? I think we might be able to get a good visual representation of what Porter was doing around the time of Grant's death."
"Not just yet, Jude. He's an old man. It'd be too taxing on his nervous system. We'll use it as a last resort."
During REM state, Porter continued to whisper something about his daughter - a warning to her, I think, but it's hard to make out. Further exploration into the subject's history verifies that his daughter was killed around the same time as the mayor. Shouldn't a major event like that be etched into his memory? How could he have forgotten it?
Judy filtered the amphetamines into Porter's system yesterday. Still no results. We've tried everything...except the holo-array. It'll take a strain on the neurochemicals in his brain, maybe even kill him, but it might be the only way we're ever really going to get anywhere.
After careful consideration, and against my better judgment, those lazy, overpaid assistants set up the array. I configured it to display the events in the subject's life approximately one hour before the mayor's murder. The surrounding environment in the chamber coalesced into the image of what appeared to be Brandon Porter's home, his front yard. Every hologram became tangible, so that Porter would think he really was back at home. All he had to do was reenact that day as it occurred sixty years back.
Day 15, 13:32:
Finally, we got something from him! I don't know what jogged Porter's memory, but something must have, because a holographic Mayor Grant shimmered into existence a few steps away from him.
"Don't ya dare go near her, Grant! You hear me? I'll kill ya, I swear!" Porter was rambling incoherently. He just kicked the representation of the mayor! Wow, even for a hologram, that still looked like it hurt. It's amazing that Porter's exhibiting that kind of flexibility for a man his age.
"His blood pressure's way over the limit. Porter can't handle what we're putting him through." An annoying alarm started to ring, and Judy yelled, "He's going into neural shock!"
"Sedate him!" Judy's fingers tapped a couple of controls for the sedative, and I similarly made sure we wouldn't have any more trouble. "Shutting down the array."
Medical scanners confirmed that the subject broke his leg when he kicked the facsimile of Mayor Grant. Thanks to the implant we inserted, Doctor Tanner was able to repair the damage to Porter's leg with the mere press of a button. That's what gets me: we can fix physical problems in seconds, but for all the technology and manpower we've got, we still can't unlock the secrets of the human mind.
Judy woke him up and started talking to him. "Mr. Porter, it's time to come back to the real world, now."
"Allison...is that you?" What's this? He thinks Judy is his daughter?
Judy took the hint and played along. "Yes, dad, it's me. What's wrong?"
"Why didn't you listen to me? I told ya not to go messing around with that no-good Grant, but nooo. You got your way; y'always did."
Porter became somewhat quieter. "But why'd you have to die, Allie? Outliving your mother was bad enough, but...I had to watch you die, too?
"And now look at ya, all grown up. Quite the woman, I see. Wait'll ya come home! Ma'll fix up a whole mess of roast pork and mashed potatoes - your favourite!"
Porter wheezed hoarsely. "Y'know, Allie, there's something I've been meanin' to ask ya: I always wanted to know why you killed --"
And that was the last Judy and I ever heard from Brandon Porter. He suffered massive heart failure and died moments later. But just who did Allison kill - herself, Grant, or both of them? I really hate being a scientist.