Unforgettable, That's What You Are (false start)

This is the first draft/false start of what eventually became Unforgettable, That's What You Are. The final published chapter was draft four or so. This is from around August 2015.

This draft is in need of some fairly obvious bits of fine-tuning, notably Kim's monologue towards the end, and the mildly unimaginative fact that both Kim and Wheeler have "smoker" as traits, and seem to be filling the same role in the story. This is one of the reasons why Kim was removed from the finished chapter. There are a few other differences, for example the finished chapter clearly takes place during the day, whereas this is a night scene.

But the actual reason for scrapping this draft is that it didn't seem credible to me that the current Antimemetics team wouldn't arrive thoroughly prepared to combat whatever it was which exterminated, or necessitated the destruction of, the previous Antimemetics team. Rather than bother writing all of that — their preparation, and then the slow process of them being removed from everybody else's memory one by one — I decided to skip ahead, picking up the action after the Mobile Task Force had already been taken out.

 

Three hours into the helicopter trip, stuffed in the back with five other people and enough leg room for one:

Paul Kim quit cigarettes years ago, but he works with memory-eating SCPs on a regular basis and a recent containment failure cost him all his memories of quitting, which means his need for a smoke is back. This isn't even the first time it's happened. He'll quit again - Foundationers aren't recruited for their lack of willpower - but that doesn't make it any less of a continuous dull rasp across his cerebellum. His fingers twitch, needing something to do.

Wheeler, on the other side of the compartment and facing him, catches his eye. She has been with the Foundation for a generation longer than he has, and that in itself says much about her character. From Kim's perspective staff at that level of seniority are all over the place, psychiatrically speaking, but all of them share a hardened core which shines on crisis days, which are every other day. It bugs Kim to be sitting in front of her and visibly fretting.

He catches her eye a few times. She's sat between two of the MTF people, Redd and Reed, both of whom dwarf her. No window, nowhere else to look really.

"How long has it been since you saw this guy?" Kim screams, over the racket of the chopper blades.

Wheeler shrugs and flashes all ten of her fingers at him a few times. Thirty years.

Raines, crammed in next to Kim, coughs dryly and at length. Everybody else in the compartment watches until she's finished. "Minus seven hours thirty," she shouts at the rest of them.

Wheeler nods.

He'll be dead by morning, Kim thinks to himself.

*

Marness's home is huge and remote, nestling cosily out in the Colorado forest with a lake and a mountain apparently all to itself. There are a couple of beefy land-roving vehicles parked out in front of it. There's a wrapped-up boat and some family vehicles, not at all suited for the ragged, muddy road that leads up to the place. There's a flattened field out at the back, kept meticulously flat, well-mown and clear. It doesn't look anything like a helipad, but that's why it's kept that way.

The Sun is setting and the home is lit warmly from the interior. It looks so idyllic as to be Photoshopped.

The chopper pilot stays in his seat and one of the MTF unit stays to protect the aircraft. The rest of them - Kim, Raines, and the three MTFs, disembark and follow Wheeler down to the house.

She knocks. While waiting, she looks over her shoulder, and gives an irate signal for the MTFs - all black armour and helmets, all black automatic weaponry, intrinsically worrying and unnecessary individuals for the occasion of a very old man's death - to move back and make themselves scarce.

Marness's daughter-in-law opens the door. She's in her fifties and looks wiped out, and frightened. Maybe ready to quit.

The first thing she spots are the FBI badges which all of them are wearing.

Wheeler flashes some ID. The ID is real; the FBI personnel database really does believe she works there. "Ma'am, I'm Special Agent Marion Wheeler, I worked with your father at the Bureau before he retired. We urgently need to speak to him in private about a matter of national security. May we come in?"

The daughter-in-law just looks baffled. It's been too long an illness and she honestly doesn't deserve to have this much extra nonsense dropped on top of her at once. "How did you... how did you get here? I didn't hear anybody pull up. Is that a helicopter?"

"Ma'am, this matter is extremely time-sensitive and I'm afraid I can't say any more. Could we perhaps speak to your father in the garden?"

"This is... No. This is ghoulish. You-- you debriefed him, right? You got all the information you needed, all the reports... Do you know what's happening to him? Do you have any idea?"

"Yes, ma'am, we do, and that only makes this situation more urgent. I apologise personally for your father's illness and I wish there were something the Bureau could do to aid your father or you or the rest of your family at this difficult time. Nevertheless, regardless of retirement or illness, a commitment to the Bureau is a lifelong commitment and your father's call has come again. Will you let us speak to him?"

Wheeler holds the daughter-in-law's gaze for a long moment. It goes on too long and Wheeler breaks first. She snaps her fingers. "Forget it. Blank her and put her in bed, make sure she gets a good night's sleep. Same with anybody else you can find from the extended family."

"What--" is all the daughter-in-law (her name's Ruth) manages to say before a narrow beam of light from one of the MTFs dazzles her. She can't look away from it, and the longer she looks at it, the less she can remember other than the light. Another MTF is already approaching her right arm with a syringe.

Raines coughs again and follows Wheeler and Kim through into the house. There's a bedroom on the ground floor at the rear. They find Marness there, sleeping badly. They roll him into a wheelchair.

*

Raines has been dialled in to Marness' physical state for some time now, and feels echoes and shadows of what Marness is feeling. She can see his death coming, like a tunnel mouth, and she can sense the critical parts of his body crumbling. But she hasn't seen the man in person, only in pictures taken in his prime, when he looked ruthless and amicable and confident, when he had that same nugget of iron that every senior Foundationer shares.

He's much shorter than she expected, less than half what his healthy weight would be. Blotchy skin, and his few remaining hairs are white. He hunches over in the wheelchair, barely filling it, limbs curled up like a dying spider.

Raines gives him the first injection, which will wake him up, followed by the second, which is the Class-X mnestic.

It's warm outside, extremely warm. There's a view of the lake and enormous electrified blue lamps for the mosquitoes. Redd and Reed keep their low profile, staying out of Marness' line of sight. Kim lurks uneasily while Wheeler pulls a garden chair up and sits in front of Marness for the conversation.

"You know me," she says. "My name's Marion. It was Hutchinson when we last met, but I've gotten married since then. We used to work together, and you might even remember that we worked together. But a lot of the things you remember aren't actually true. Your memories have been edited very thoroughly, by us, the organisation you worked for. You never worked for the FBI. The organisation you used to work for, which you should be starting to remember now, is called the Foundation. You were the founder, and first chief, of the Antimemetics department. That was in 1976."

Marness is awake now, and staring, although off to one side at a gardenia, not at anybody involved in the conversation. Comprehension is crawling back.

Wheeler goes on: "Letting people retain anything when they retire has historically proven to be a liability. Which is why, after your decades of exceptional service, you were given-- in fact, you agreed to, and demanded-- an amnestic drug. This allowed us to purge your memories of the Foundation, replacing them, for the most part, with nothing at all. Black bars. As you exited the building for the last time, your cover story became your real story. Since then you have been allowed to enjoy your richly deserved retirement.

"However, there was something left over. These instructions were written by you, and left with your successor as Antimemetics department chief, and eventually handed to me, when I took over as Antimemetics chief from her. The instructions state that you get all of the rest of your life to yourself, to fish and swim and annoy your grandchildren... except for the final nine hours. These are now the final nine hours. You work for us again. Raines?"

Raines' eyes defocus and she looks at a semi-metaphorical clock which only she can see. "Six hours five," she says.

"Do you remember leaving these instructions?" Wheeler asks.

"Yes," Marness says, surprising himself with the deepness and clarity of his own voice. Everything else he's said in the past year has been a dry croak.

"You've been given a substance called a Class-X mnestic. This is an anomalous biological agent which forcibly reverses the process of memory loss. You've been given a strong enough dose to unwind and relive your entire life. The process will be very confusing but we will try to guide you and keep you focused. Unfortunately the Class-X is also extremely harmful to humans, and the amount you've been given is lethal. There is no antidote."

Marness takes this information solemnly and silently.

"But we already knew you were going to die today," Wheeler adds.

"Tomorrow," Marness says, determinedly.

"You agreed to this. It was your plan. These are your final wishes."

The first drug is energising. Marness feels as if layers of heavy grey mud are sliding off him. The sensation is wondrous, he almost feels well again. "What's this other stuff?"

"It's an illusion. We haven't cured cancer, if that's what's frightening you," Kim assures him.

"Do you remember why you left these instructions?" Wheeler asks.

Marness shakes his head.

Kim fills the rest in. "I had been working in the Antimemetics division for two days when I had the idea. It turns out the seniors run a pool to see how fast the newcomers figure it out and I clocked in close to the record. Only a few people were faster. Marion here, and you. But... well, that's the point, isn't it? Maybe others did better.

"The Antimemetics division was founded in 1976. You founded it and led it. The division was your idea. This entire region of anomalous information science was your baby. But how far back does the idea of information science go? How far back are the roots of epistemology? What millennium was it when the first human had the idea of ideas? When was the first person someone sat down and tried to figure out how, and why, we forget things?"

Kim would be gesturing with a lit cigarette if he could, but there are none here to smoke, and in any case it would be in the worst taste.

Marness is nodding. "I remember. And I remember you now, Marion. I--" and he clutches his head as the first explosion of pain goes off inside it. Raines holds him.

"And you don't remember what happened before then," Marion says. "Nobody does, nobody can. Do you have any idea how much effort it took us to even try to look into your backstory? Your past history at the Foundation, I mean. Do you know how many people we had to send into those files before we gathered solid enough evidence that there was an antimemetic field effect surrounding you? Something we couldn't get to? We ended up using statistical methods."

"Why did it take us until '76 to start the research?" Kim asks Marness. "How did you survive and nobody else? What happened to the first Antimemetics team?"

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