My first regret, sitting there in the reception room, was that I didn’t take a bit longer sorting through my shirts to find one that fit. The button over my belly was ripe to burst at any sudden movement, which was a reminder of my age, and how the years on this earth had added to the girth around my midsection. My usual attire of a loose lab coat made me appear slimmer. The flow of office workers walking across the foyer all wore perfectly tailored suits and dresses, formed around lean bodies. Clean shaven, hair cropped short, or pulled back in pony tails so tight it seemed to help the slender ladies of the office stand tall with heads held high.
I smoothed my springy hair, finger combed my beard, and looked down at my tan suit that I thought looked alright when I had examined myself in my bedroom mirror before leaving. I tried to spy my reflection in the shiny company logo emblazed on the far wall, Advanced Tomorrow, LLC, but I couldn’t.
Freaking Jerry Garcia, I though. I look like freaking Jerry Garcia, and not when he was young.
I hugged the satchel bag to my side, tapping my fingers against the warn leather, and fought the urge to check my watch. Back when I was at Johns Hopkins they would never have kept me waiting this long. Especially not with the manifold held within my briefcase. The years of research … the decade of work … it was all right here, a half an inch from my side, separated by a few thin layers of cloth and leather. Just a few dozen papers and blueprints. Enough to alter society’s perception of the human mind forever after. The machine alone would be groundbreaking, but it was the serum … the serum that could break the blood-brain barrier and read the neurons like a book, or how a radio picks up invisible transmission in the air. Any yet, hear I was, waiting.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and exhaled. Calm, old man, stay calm. It’s not their fault that you were expelled from the university like some old dead thing. It’s your own burden. This work of yours always gets you in trouble. And now you have to come groveling to approve funding like a common low life, and not a respectable …
The door leading to the executive wing opened, and a slender young man came out wearing a bright smile across his hairless face. He didn’t look old enough to shave in the first place. “Mister Wulfric?” the man asked, looking in my direction.
I pushed my wire-rim glasses farther up the bridge of my nose and smiled back, despite my mind protesting his use of Mister instead of my formal title, which took years of schooling.
“Yes,” I said, inching forward to stand.
“Mister Kalispell will see you now.”
“Great,” I said, and winced momentarily as my knees took the pressure of me standing.
My belly pressed against my shirt as I stood, and just when I realized that I needed to suck my stomach in, something small and round popped from my shirt and rolled across the thin carpet. Bright white against short gray bristles.