It was dark in North Dakota by the time Kam and Rain met.
Rain’s lab was a renovated office building that she bought when she decided the university lab wasn’t private enough. There’s the top level that still has an office façade, but she gutted the entire basement, and turned into a roomy and multi-level lab. Rain considered it her second home. Kam wished she didn’t consider a second home, but over her internship with Rain she’d spent so much time here that it was inevitable.
“Throw the video recording up on the wall and just watch, Kam.” Rain slipped into her lab coat.
Kam shrugged but took the tablet and swiped the video from the screen to the wall. Rain sat down on the spinning stool, watching her assistant eagerly. Kam watched in silence, peering intensely.
“What are they-“
“Shhhh! Just watch Kam,” Rain insisted. Kam moved her eyes back to the video on the wall, watching as the alien placed several amounts of minerals onto the lab table. Then a glass covering raised over the entire thing. The Komali scientist pushed some buttons on their console screen and the machine started to make a very faint mechanical hum. At first, Kam couldn’t make out what was happening inside of the machine but her eyes widen as she watched was undeniably a skeleton form from the minerals on the table.
Crafting human limbs that were grown and then harvested wasn’t unusual, although it was expensive. Many more people opted for to get android replacements instead. Kam’s roommate in college had gone through having her arm blown off during her first tour in space and gotten a robotic replacement. Many more people, born blind, had robotic eyes.
But Kam had never heard of forming a skeleton from raw minerals before.
Then she watched as the empty body cavity filled in with internal organs, carefully transported into place by the scientist. Then a layer of muscle, and finally purple skin appeared. The body lay lifeless for a moment then the scientist pushed another button and a small electrical surge lit up the case and Kam saw the body takes its first breaths. The glass shield slid away and the naked alien sat up.
“Can you tell me your name?” The scientist asked.
“I am Professor Ibbala from the southern coastal institute.” The body, the professor said calmly.
“Can you tell me what the last thing you remember Professor?”
“I was in my office, grading papers when the building exploded. I tried to escape. The door was blocked by debris. I suffocated.”
“How many times have you been resurrected?”
The naked alien seemed to almost smile at this. “This is my third.”
The scientist nodded. “Thank you. You may get dressed and go, Professor.”
The video ended. Kam turned to face Rain, mouth open and speechless. Rain was grinning maniacally.
“They can bring back the dead, Kam.”
After being plied with some very strong chai tea, Kam was able to speak again.
“It was incredible, like making a human from clay.” Her hands rotated around each other, remembering the way the alien had been made, not born but made.
“I know, I was amazed but apparently this is how they keep their traditions alive. A certain percentage of their population agrees to be resurrected to teach the next generation and so on. The most one has been brought back was six times, Kam. They were over five hundred years old by the time they called it quits.” Rain was pacing back and forth, energy pouring off of her intense waves. She gripped her cane tighter as she spoke.
“And I think we can do it too.”
Kam laughed, but stopped when Rain glared at her.
“Come on Rain be serious. This is an alien species. They might have the biology, the evolution to make this happen but humans certainly don’t.”
“Actually, other than their gravity and atmosphere allowing for the difference between pigmentation and bone structure, the Komali aren’t so different. Same nutritional needs, same breeding patterns, same brain shape and size. With some small tweaks to the process and an adjustment in the amount of the material needed, this could definitely be applied to a human.” Rain leaned on her walking stick, amber eyes burning holes into her intern.
Kamala gave her a nervous look. “And you want to recreate the data, but with a-”
“I want to do one of ours, one of humanity’s historical figures.”
Kamala sat back, stunned.
“What would you make her, um him, uh, them with?” She stuttered out.
Rain smiled bigger than ever, amber eyes glinting.
“Water, carbon, ammonia, lime, salt, ectera, ectera, ectera. Human bodies are cheap, all things being equal.” Her expression was extremely satisfied.
Kam shifted uneasily in her chair. “But, is it, you know?” She mouthed something.
“What?” Rain snapped, tired of debating something she’d already made up her mind on.
“Moral?” Kam rotated her hand around. “You know, the right thing to do, to bring back a person who has been dead, if they can’t consent? Isn’t it like kidnapping? They’ll be away from everything they’ve ever known or love,” she said softly.
For a long moment Rain stared at her, eyes flicking over her face, like she was trying to decide if Kam was being serious or not. Then, after a long pregnant pause, she laughed.
Rainbow laughed like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard in her entire life. Kam blushed darkly.
“Oh hells bells, that’s funny,” she snickered, wiping her eyes. “Look, Kam, are you a scientist or not? Think of all of the things someone like Copernicus or Newton, or, or, Galileo could tell us today, after being exposed to our world. People of enlightenment and social change, what good they could do today. I don’t think they will really care about being dead.”
“But to tear them away from all of their loved ones, everything they’ve known…”
“Kam. Please. This could change the whole world. And I want you to do this with me, I want us to go down together,” Rain pleaded, her heart pounding. She needed to convince Kam to do this somehow, because she wanted someone to collaborate with on her story and how Rain came up with this ingenious method of bring back the dead.
Kam squirmed on her stool, fiddling with the ends of her lab coat sleeves.
“If nothing else,” Rain broke in suddenly, “It will also make all of your hard work at school worth it right? To see all of those new theories put to test right? Won’t Tammy be proud of you?” It was a low tactic but no one ever accused Rain of being a fair player.
Kam flushed, but finally nodded.
“I’ll help. I’ll help you do this.”
Rain grinned and clapped her intern on the shoulder.
“I knew I could count on you Kam.”
“Excellent! Then what we need to do next is to figure how to configure the equations to a human. Then we need to run some simulations of how it would act with the changes. The last thing I want is a pile of goo on my lab table.” Rain laughed again, even as Kam grimaced.
“That’s sick Rain, you shouldn’t joke about that.”
Rain rolled her eyes. “Just start crunching the numbers, Mother Teresa.”
“Who were you thinking of doing?” Kam asked, flicking through the data, her eyes moving quickly over all of the equations.
They’d been at it for a little over an hour, each woman bent low over her workstation. Kam was excited to see Rain was probably correct, that with modifications the program would run for Human DNA. The problem was figure out which modifications were needed. The scroll of coding rolled past her again as Kam refocused her eyes.
“I want someone exotic. Born before 1900, preferably from the scientific revolution or before.”
“Exotic? Being from the past won’t be enough?” Kam asked, eyebrow raised.
“Oh please Kam, you know that genetics have made us all blend together. That and the White Plague.”
Kam nodded. “So not Gandhi then?” She teased.
Rain shook her head firmly. “I know you’re a fan, sorry.”
“Hmmm, how about a Greek then? Plato or Socrates?” Kam guessed.
Rain flapped a hand. “No, no Greeks. Someone closer.”
“No, go further south.”
Rain showed her the file she’d pulled on her classic tablet, smiling proudly.
“You want to bring back Leonardo da Vinci?”
“Yep. The original Renaissance man. Artist, scientist, mathematician, philosopher. He even played the lute!”
“What’s that?” Kamala asked curiously. A woodwind of some kind? She herself played an oboe.
“No idea, but when he gets here I’m sure he’ll be able to tell us,” Rain laughed.
“If he gets here,” Kam reminded her. Rain sighed.
“Don’t be such a cynic, Kam. We’ll figure it out. It’s just science. And what’s the primary rule of science?”
“That under the correct circumstances, any event is repeatable,” Kam dutifully repeated for her mentor. It was Rain’s favorite philosophy of science, even if most people found it outdated. Was the Big Bang repeatable? Human evolution? Any two patterns of DNA? No, it was absurd, but don’t try to tell Rainbow Miller that.
Kam sighed as she got back to screen.
She’d desperately wanted to work Rain ever since she’d read one of her articles for a class in her freshman year of school. It was cutting edge, challenging, competitive. A little arrogant and it drew too heavily on antiquity that no one cared about, but that’s what Kam liked, because it made Rain memorable.
Working with the woman was altogether different.
She wasn’t just a little arrogant, but very. She was also obsessive and detailed oriented to the point of being nearly manic. Kam had enjoyed her time with Rain for what it was, extremely educational but she looked forward to the end of her tenure with the other scientist.