"Just calm down," said Harold, turning his gaze away from the screen of his supercomputer. "I'm just saying that we should use the DNA from the dinosaur bone."
"That DNA is probably either from fungus or bacteria. You are such a fucking idiot."
"Don't lose your temper, Robinson. The DNA you extracted from the blood in the belly of that fossilized mosquito is not intact."
"Jesus Christ! God gave you a brain, didn't he? All we have to do is use the supercomputer to call up the DNA from T. Rex, align it with modern DNA, and infer the similarities and differences. Then we can figure out what's missing and fill in the gaps."
"I still don't think you can do it," said Harold.
"Of course you donít. Why would you? You're not even willing to try because you're such a fucking loser!"
"You shouldn't call me names like that, Robinson, and I still think we should use the DNA I extracted from the bone of T. Rex.."
"Iím going to frigging kill you." Robinson searched the room frantically for a weapon, grabbing a long glass beaker. "Iím going to take this beaker and shove it up your ass!"
Harold picked up the femur of T. Rex and cocked like a baseball bat. "If you want a piece of me, Robinson, then come and get it."
"You are so frigging stupid! You think you know everything. But I'm going to clone T. Rex all by myself, and when I'm finished I'm going to kill you."
Harold lowered the dinosaur bone and let it fall to the floor. He walked out the door and into the conference room where two scientists in lab coats sat waiting for him.
Dr. Merriweather asked, "Whatís the problem, Harold?"
"Itís Robinson. I canít work with him. Heís rude and nasty and just a few minutes ago he threatened to shove a glass beaker up my ass. Either you get rid of him or Iím off the project."
The other scientist, Dr. Jenkins, hesitated for a moment, then replied. ďI'm afraid we can't do that, Harold. You see, there is no Robinson; we made him up. Heís an hallucination produced by manipulating the brain chip in your head."
"Not again! You said you wouldn't do that to me anymore."
"We're sorry. But this project is very important to us."
"But why did you have to create someone like Robinson?"
"Because his characteristics are what motivates you," replied Dr. Jenkins. "We wanted to create the person who would help you clone the Tyrannosaurus the fastest."
Dr. Merriweather tried to help explain. "We performed a brain scan on you to determine which qualities in a partner would best motivate you."
"And this is what you came up with -- Robinson? The man cusses at me constantly and tells me how stupid I am. How could anyone in his right mind enjoy this type of abuse?"
"Weíre not saying that you enjoy it, per se," replied Dr. Merriweather. "We're just saying that it causes you to be more productive. Apparently, verbal abuse and criticism are familiar to you. And we all know weíre most comfortable with whatís familiar to us. You have to admit that your results have been most impressive since you began your partnership with Robinson."
Dr. Jenkins, who had been intently studying his notes on a clipboard, added, "We also uncovered some other things when we performed your brain scan that might be of interest to you." He flipped through several pages. "For example: we found three separate yet distinct complexes living inside your brain -- an inferiority complex, a persecutory complex, and a self-sabotaging complex."
"Well I knew that already," said Harold, incredulously. "I've been fully aware of these complexes and all they entail for quite some time. Why don't you tell me something I don't already know?"
Dr. Jenkins continued, ignoring Harold's interruption. "The last of these three complexes -- the self-sabotaging one -- concerned us for obvious reasons. You seem to feel that you're not worthy of success. Whenever youíre close to succeeding, and you see it within your grasp, you do something to sabotage yourself. Therefore, it was necessary that we correct this problem because we do want you to succeed, at least in your efforts to clone the Tyrannosaurs Rex."
"The other two complexes," added Dr. Merriweather, "we did not correct. The inferiority complex is part of your personality -- part of what makes you you -- and many people find this rather charming. Dr. Jenkins in particular was quite smitten by it."
Harold looked at Dr. Jenkins, who blushed and diverted his gaze shyly to the floor. Dr. Merriweather witnessed this brief interlude with homosexual overtones, then continued.
"As far as the persecutory complex is concerned, even though paranoia is still considered a form of mental illness in certain circles, we feel that under the circumstances your paranoia is more than justified. In fact, we're concerned that youíre not paranoid enough."
"But wasnít there somebody else I could have worked with?"
"Well actually there was a second choice. God."
"Thatís right, we were going to team you up with God so that the two of you could bounce ideas off each other's heads. Could you imagine God sitting in that chair right there?" The three men stared at an empty chair as Dr. Jenkins turned some dials on the controller he held in his hand, programming a new hallucination for Harold's brain chip. But the chair remained empty.
"Sorry," said Harold, "I donít believe in God."
"You wouldnít have been able to work with God anyway," said Dr. Merriweather. "You wouldnít know what to say to him, would you?" He looked at Harold with disgust. "No, of course you wouldnít."
"Or we could have given you a female partner," said Dr. Jenkins, turning the dials again and punching some codes on the keyboard. Then he looked towards the door and Dr. Merriweather did the same. The door opened and a beautiful young woman in a white lab coat came in and sat down in the empty chair, right on top of God.
"This is Tina," said Dr. Jenkins, "whom of course you already know, since your partnership here at Sinitek Labs is legendary and the subject of so much water-cooler gossip."
"My partnership with her? Since when? What happened to Robinson?"
"There is no Robinson. There never was a Robinson. Tina's your partner -- she's always been your partner."
"I suppose your going to tell me that this is my idea of the perfect woman."
"That's correct," said Dr. Merriweather. "Itís all in your brain scan. Tina is the only woman with whom you could possibly get along, at least at your current level of emotional functioning. She does, however, have her good points, as Iím sure youíll find out if you're willing to proceed with an open mind."
Harold looked at Tina. "I suppose you're expecting some type of big romantic love affair."
"Not really," she replied, "I just want to have sex with you."
Harold stood up from the table. "Iíve had just about enough of all this brain chip foolishness. Iíll make a deal with you: Stop with the hallucinations and the imaginary partners and Iíll go back to my lab right now and I guarantee Iíll clone a T. Rex before the end of the month."
"I'm afraid we can't do that," said Dr. Merriweather.
Harold thought for a second. "OK. Then I'll take Tina,"
"That's fine with us," said Dr. Jenkins. "And when you succeed in cloning the T. Rex we have a special surprise for you."
"What kind of surprise?" asked Harold.
"We can't tell you," replied Dr. Merriweather, "but we know you'll love it."
Harold nodded and started to leave. Then he turned to Tina. "Would you like to join me for dinner?"
"Sure," she replied.
Harold offered Tina his arm, which she took. The two of them left and Doctors Jenkins and Merriweather looked at each other and smiled. This, of course, had all been part of their plan.
Tina proved to be an excellent partner for Harold. They locked themselves in the lab and worked night and day. They extracted strands of DNA and screened them on the supercomputer. They aligned ancient genetic material with DNA fragments from living animals to figure out what was missing. Harold didnít take his genes from dinosaur blood in the belly of a mosquito, like that dumbass Robinson. He used the DNA from the fossilized bone of T. Rex.. As Harold and Tina worked feverishly in the lab, Harold had just one person on his mind. Robinson.
The project worked perfectly. The fake egg provided a safe and comfortable home for the implanted cell and in less than a month the baby dinosaur emerged.
One day, as Harold was examining the baby dinosaur, something very strange happened. It began to grow right before his eyes and within minutes it was a full-grown Tyrannosaurus Rex.
As Harold watched in amazement, Tina burst into the lab.
"It's Robinson!" she exclaimed. "He says he's going to kill you. He's on his way to the auditorium right now, riding his own version of T. Rex -- the one he cloned himself."
Harold smiled. So this was the big surprise that Jenkins and Merriweather had in mind? A bizarre yet amusing little fantasy created, no doubt, by manipulating the brain chip in his head.
Harold climbed on top of his T. Rex..
"Here," said Tina, handing him a long javelin. "You'll need this."
Harold entered the arena feeling that rush of adrenaline that can only be called the thrill of battle. He saw Robinson far away at the other end and slowly started to approach him. He knew that what was happening probably wasnít real, but he had to admit it was the most excitement he had had in a long time.
Harold snapped at the reins of his T. Rex and began to gallop. If I die in battle, he wondered, will I really die? That was a good question. Or if I kill Robinson, will he die? That was an even better question since Robinson wasnít real to begin with. Jenkins and Merriweather have really outdone themselves this time, he thought. And don't I deserve at least a little of the credit myself? After all, he had accomplished what he set out to do; he had successfully cloned a Tyrannosaurus Rex. For once he didn't sabotage it. Now he was just going to enjoy himself and the festivities of the joust, imaginary or not.
Harold continued to ride forward on his dinosaur towards the center of the ring. Robinson was also slowly approaching on the T. Rex that he had cloned, only his looked much more like a giant lizard (he had probably used the ovum of an crocodile -- that dumbass). Robinson was also holding a long javelin. When he was close enough for Harold to see his face, Harold experienced the strangest sensation. It was as if he were about to be reunited with an old friend. They continued to move even closer, each man pointing his long javelin at the other. When they arrived in the center of the ring, about twenty feet apart, they stopped.
Harold cried out, "Hey! Robinson!"
Robinson shouted back, "How have you been, Dickface?"
Then he charged.
If you liked this story you can e-mail Neal at: NealWilli@aol.com and let hm know what you think. Neal has a webpage at: http://members.aol.com/NealWilli/index.html
Neal Williams is a fairly new writer of SF and Horror. In addition to this story in Aphelion, he currently has one in the Canadian Gothic (Online) Magazine (http://www.pathcom.com/~smclean/ ). In September he will begin graduate school in Belgium.
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