Four hundred metres.
[Bump. Muffled: “dead zone… no surveillance…”]
Please state your name.
Dr. Irving Haskell.
You have approximately ten minutes, Dr. Haskell.
About my compensation—
As discussed. Ten million dollars and safe passage to Beijing in exchange for your knowledge.
Where do I start?
It started in Peru in 2003.
You were involved from the beginning?
Yes, I’d been involved in the initial planning since the 1990s, and I took over as overseer in 2001.
Lack of government interference. Away from Chinese spies.
Why didn’t it start earlier?
The tech wasn’t there. We lacked the ability.
Ability to do what?
Tell me about the site in Peru.
It was an orphanage joined to a hospital for the mentally deficient.
What did you hope to accomplish?
We were afraid we were falling behind in science—in intelligence, and we hoped to close the gap by accelerating the education of a select few… superspecimen.
Explain the process.
It was based on the Russian doping programs and Chinese sports camps, but instead of isolating gifted children and specializing them in gymnastics, we wanted to specialize them in mathematics, physics, chemistry.
You mentioned brain transplants.
Yes, that was the breakthrough. Because even the most gifted mind takes time to learn. We invented a bypass. By extracting one child’s brain and implanting it successively in what we called learners—
Did the children die?
The donors, yes. Unfortunately.
What were the learners?
People. Mental deficients whose heads we’d hollowed out and whose bodies we’d re-engineered into biological learning machines. One for each subject, and the donor brains completed the cycle, transplanted into each learner in turn.
I’ll never forget the learning chamber, those docile bodies sitting and learning the same thing over and over. Barely resting, barely eating…
The brains were rehomed.
Yes, children the same age as those from whom we’d harvested the brains. You can appreciate the elegance. Learning untangled from time. Education in the blink of an eye.
Did it work?
How did you choose between donors and superspecimen?
But one died and the other survived.
That’s a matter of perspective. The donor’s body died, but its brain actually thrived in the superspeciman’s body.
Did you know their names?
[Truck engine cuts]
Mateo Garcia. Angel Rodriguez. Hugo Echeveria. Alvaro Fonseca. Pablo Jimenez.
Javier Lopez. Manuel Perez. Rodrigo Morales. I can go on.
Those were all learners.
Who… are you?
I am all of them. Or they are me.
I didn’t just learn the foundations of science, Dr. Haskell. I learned my-selves. I became twenty-seven of them. Imagine what it feels like to be twenty-seven people’s desire for revenge.
You’re mad. The learners were eliminated when the program was shut down—
It was never shut down.
You were removed as overseer.
Until next time, Doctor.
[Muffled: “…prepare for extraction…”]
[End of recording]