Quasi-human – Alessandro S. Scafato
SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE FICTION
“An exciting story that looks like science fiction but … it is not! Simply fantastic!” – Amazon Customer
Dr Elijah Levin is offered a position by Osiris Corp CEO Jules Hayes. His new job is to use his knowledge to cure Jules’ daughter, Sofia, who just recovered from an accident that cost her her dreams, along with the use of her legs.
After gathering the best young researchers the world has to offer, the development of a novel and revolutionary design begins. However, Sofia is struggling to deal with her new life. Surrounded by people that refuse to make her face justice.
The prototype proceeds with the researchers unaware of the attentions it’s going to attract.
Soon enough, the lives of Elijah, Sofia and everyone involved with the project will be indelibly shaken by the authority of the U.S. Army.
A. S. Scafato is a PhD in Biomechanics and a Design Engineer with a passion for transmitting scientific culture and awareness.
With his novel he aims to provide accurate science knowledge by means of a narrative that anyone can appreciate.
“A very interesting book with an intriguing story, I recommend reading it to everyone!” – Davide
Dear Dr Levin,
My name is Dr Hayes. I am the CEO of Osiris Corp. You may not have heard of me, but I am a good friend of Prof Sercan Zeybek, whom I have known since our time at MIT. We spoke recently about your research on connections between prosthesis and the central nervous system and I would like to offer you the chance of continuing your work with Osiris.
Sercan can vouch for me so by all means please do speak to him regarding this proposition. I am sure he will offer you good advice on this matter.
It is important for me that you understand that this offer comes not only for business reasons but also from a more pressing and personal event, which I would like to discuss with you, if you agree to meeting me face to face, perhaps next week.
I hope you will accept my invitation.
Dr Jules Hayes
Reading the email, my mind couldn’t quite process the implications of this offer. I shut my tablet and suddenly a million thoughts and fears kick me awake. This must be what Sercan mentioned during our last meeting; Jules is not just some random person who wants to meet, and this is far from being a scam. It might mean a completely new avenue for my research, and I’d finally be making an awful lot of money out of what I love most.
I wheel myself towards the bathroom whilst still immersed in my thoughts.
This stupid wheelchair is squeaking again! I was convinced I had it fixed last time; it must be a curse or something.
I splash a handful of water onto my face then shout at my home assistant to call me a cab; the device replies by informing me that a car to University will arrive in ten minutes. Suddenly, my phone gives a sharp vibration.
GEERT: Hey buddy! I am coming to pick you up with the Honda. You’re still at home, right?
ELIJAH: Man, how many times do I have to tell you? That car is not meant for cripples!
GEERT: Come on! I am waiting at the door, just roll over here already!
ELIJAH: You are worse than a girlfriend, you know that?
GEERT: I am here, love!
ELIJAH: Shut up! I am coming down
Ok, so that’s Geert, who probably had someone to sleep over last night and absolutely had to tell me before breakfast. That man is way too much for this world. I am sure that the boot of the stupid Honda won’t close with my chair in it, but fair enough.
I get the lift down from my apartment in Zuid and see Geert’s car parked as illegally as possible. He is waiting, sitting on the hood of the Honda.
‘I’m here, I’m here, stop whining already!’ I say, approaching the car.
‘Just jump in, man!’ He is in a good mood. I sense satisfaction in his voice.
‘Yeah, because last time I won the Olympics with my long jump skills…’ I approach the door and shift myself onto the car seat.
‘Ha! Quit the bullshit Eli, I’ll put the chair in the boot.’ I wait for him to try closing the boot and hear it smashing onto the frame of my chair: once, twice… will it be three times? Yes, it will!
‘You know that destroying my chair with your car won’t make me any more grateful, right?’ I say, trying to fake anger over my amusement.
‘One second! I am using the cables.’ Like every other time. ‘Well, that’s strange; I actually made space for it! It’s not my fault; I really thought it would fit.’ It was just a matter of moving the rubbish away.
‘Let’s go, shall we?’ He continues.
‘Just don’t drive like a moron,’ I beg.
Fortunately, the morning traffic forces him to drive reasonably. After years of hanging out with him I know the sole purpose of owning this car is for the appeal that it instils in women. After all, he is not really interested in motors at all. Not once has he mentioned what’s under the hood of his car, and for all he cares, there could be a colony of well-educated hamsters running it.
‘I assume you want to talk about your latest adventures over breakfast?’ I remind myself of his presence.
‘Oh yeah! I’m heading straight to the Agora.’ Good, at least I will have something to drink while he babbles about last night!
The Agora is the cafeteria of Antwerp University, one of those okay places which everyone, from students to professors, start going to just because it’s easily accessible from the department. Still, five years later here we are, getting the same coffee in the same place we thought we’d have ditched after a few weeks of University. Too mainstream, our young selves once said. Too busy, we reply today.
‘Espresso for me please, no sugar,’ I order at the bar of the canteen.
‘You are a maniac, as usual. You do know that drinking coffee without sugar is for serial killers, right?’ My friend promptly comments behind me.
‘Yes. I know!’ My mouth stretches into a compulsive smile. ‘You say it every damn morning. I have no idea where you read that, but I am sure the stereotype must be at least a hundred years old.’ In talking to Geert, I try to stay serious, though it’s virtually impossible with him.
He is like one of those gigantic dogs that seem a bit dumb at first but are extremely clever once they get to do things. He must be a couple of metres tall from my perspective; in comparison I probably look like a Hobbit. Obviously I am disadvantaged, as I’m always sitting, but even if I could stand it wouldn’t make too much of a difference in terms of proportions.
‘So tell me everything, any action?’ I introduce the conversation while sipping my coffee.
‘Yeah man, loads of it! I went with this group of Spanish students. They were absolutely crazy!’ The excitement he shows sometimes looks too explosive to be real.
‘I believe so… anyone I know?’ I ask, mildly worried.
‘Don’t think so, they are undergrads. I just hope none of them knows Maria, otherwise I might be in a little trouble again.’ He scratches the back of his head and tries to look ashamed, though in reality he takes pride in his scheming.
Geert is one of those rare specimens who find trouble by being too talented at social relations. Apart from having the looks for it, he puts a huge effort and dedication in his seduction skills. Still, sometimes hearing about his techniques can sound totally degrading for the opposite sex.
‘Spit it out. Was she cute, at least?’ I smile naughtily.
‘Yeah… but she isn’t who I am after. I haven’t even slept with her… She has a friend, though.’ He tries to keep my attention by putting his open palm right between us. ‘Angela, a much harder catch.’
‘So you are going after her bad-looking friend to leverage on her jealousy? That’s a rookie trick,’ I comment. I am so glad there aren’t feminists overhearing this conversation.
‘It’s just a starting strategy; while I date this girl I’ll have the opportunity to get to know Angela. From there I only have to make her laugh and keep her amused.’ I stare at him, puzzled by his methodical approach, wondering if he was always that way.
A part of me shivers, listening to his strategies, before my rationality takes over, keeping me entertained by his ruthless art of seduction.
Sometimes even I struggle to figure out how I became friends with Geert. I suppose I make a good wingman, being paraplegic and everything, but that’s not all of it. The point is that he simply doesn’t see a disabled person when he looks at me. I strongly believe he is the least empathetic man ever, considering he makes the meanest jokes about me having to push myself around all the time.
Nevertheless, for someone who has been like this for almost all his life, it’s a relief to have someone who sees my condition as a feature, and not as a sad condition.
‘You should be careful, Geert; half of my friends already hate you because of your stunts!’ I lecture.
‘I would be worried, my friend, if the entire collection wasn’t comprised solely of me and Aya,’ he replies, then pauses, a moment of reflection, and continues. ‘You are far too selective, man.’ I bow to his logic.
After taking my last sip of coffee, I lean back in my chair, ready to change subject. ‘Whatever, man. Hey, I got an email today, job offer I think, from a chap in Boston.’
‘Elaborate?’ He looks at me as if I am about to reveal something of utter stupidity.
‘He is a friend of Professor Zeybek. I understand they were together during his Master’s at MIT. I am meeting with Sercan later to talk about it then I’ll hit the lab,’ I explain, trying to hide my over-excitement.
‘Sounds like a real thing… Good luck with it, man.’ He looks at his watch casually. ‘I’d better get off to work before people steal my spot at the lab. Speak later!’ I just nod and wave as he gets up to leave.
It’s strange how a stereotypical morning can feel so different from any other day. I have a gut feeling that the email will bring huge changes in my life. Yet I look around me and everything else is exactly the same as yesterday.
“This is the most amazing, intriguing and well-written science fiction that I’ve read in a long time.” – Ori
FROM THE AUTHOR
Alessandro Schiavone, in art A. S. Scafato.
Scientific communication has been a personal passion for me since the beginning of my studies in science. In the past I volunteered in writing short science and technology articles and physics lessons for social media.
The eagerness for writing stories has been transmitted to me by my mother since childhood. Initially, I started writing because I needed a hobby, a good distraction to keep the brain from falling into the gloom of boredom and monotony. Hence, between working and video-gaming, I was craving a new project to follow.
Quasi-human is my first real attempt at being a sci-fi novelist. It began with the sole purpose of proving to myself that I could make it. I chose a subject that made me comfortable, developed characters and plots as they came. I soon realised that the story was going somewhere, and it communicated a view of science that was both reliable and interesting. At that point, I knew I would aspire not just to finish the book, but also to publish it.
I genuinely hope my work will invite people to appreciate real-world science and its implication in our daily life.”