General Fiction posted April 14, 2013

This work has reached the exceptional level
The most accomplished scientist of 2092 is interviewed.

My Interview with Dr. Calvin Stubbs

by christianpowers

Character Interview Contest Winner 

Due to blind luck, like winning the lottery after buying the wrong numbers, I was granted an exclusive interview with the greatest inventor and most accomplished industrial scientist our world has ever seen, the formerly deceased, Dr. Calvin Stubbs.

It's the first and only interview Dr. Stubbs has agreed to since his widely reported and quite miraculous return from the dead.

My goal was to get to know the man who has, singlehandedly, changed life on our planet, and to get some much desired information on how being murdered, then rising from the dead, and living his new life as a man in the body of a woman has affected him.

Everyone has countless questions for him on the subject of his death alone, but I also hoped to find out where he believes Catherine Ward has gone. Despite teams of scientists investigating her disappearance, as of this date, April 13, 2092, the fate of his former fiance has yet to be determined.

He (or should I say she now?) invited me to his extravagant office at the top of the Building of Boston, Simsyn Corporation's world headquarters.

I entered his office and prompted the holorecorder on my wristphone. An attractive woman, thirty years of age, wearing a business suit, brunette with her long hair pulled back in a ponytail, rose to greet me from behind her desk at the far end of the room.

A lounging area of sofas, soft chairs and end tables lay between us in the center of the room. We met in the midst of them.

"You must be Christian," she said, extending her hand.

"Yes, Dr. Stubbs," I answered, shaking hands. She had a firm grip, but not too firm. By that I guessed he felt comfortable enough being in the body of a woman not to attempt overcompensating for it. I said, "It's an honor to meet you, sir."

She waved at a sofa. "Have a seat. Would you care for a drink?"

"Yes, thank you." I sat on the brown leather sofa.

"Name it," she said, holding her hand over a vending panel.

"I'll have a pilsner, cold, light and low."

She tapped the panel and ordered my pilsner, then ordered a simple vanilla coke on crushed ice for herself. The orders arrived from the vending panel, and she grabbed them both.

Dr. Stubbs handed me my beer, and sat on the opposite end of the sofa. She sipped her drink, put it down on the coffee table, and sat forward with her elbows resting on her knees and hands folded. Her lips tightened into a guarded smile. Then she eyed me with a sidelong glare, and asked, "What would you like to know, Christian?"

I sipped my beer and sat back. "I have a hundred questions, Dr. Stubbs. Questions like; what was dying like, what do you think happened to Catherine Ward, what challenges does living life as a woman present, how did you rise from the dead, is this technology avail--"

"Let me stop you right there, Christian." She shook her head, frowning. "I never died. My body was killed, but I wasn't in it at the time, so I don't know what dying is like.

"I believe Kate, my fiance, is exactly where I had been, trapped inside the digital database located in a program that operates the virtual reality game world of Panacea. The essence of Catherine Ward is there, and we will find her.

"Living as a woman is... well... it's definitely full of many challenges, the most of all is... Well, I'm still learning how to... how to live in this body. All I can say is that... at times... at times it's quite confusing.

"What was the last thing? Oh, I know. I believe you asked how I rose from the dead and began to ask me if others might be able to do the same."

I nodded.

"No. I never died," she said, taking a quick sip of her beverage. She put it back down on the table. "So, of course if I never rose from the dead then others won't be able to do it either."

She held up a finger, and added, "However, I did come back from an incorporeal digital form to inhabit the body of Kate Ward, and there's a very good scientific explanation for that... but that's a story for another day."

"Can you simply explain it today... right now?"

"Look, Christian... you seem nice enough. I'd love to hang out and chat with you all day, really I would, and I do realize you need to do your job, but the fact is... I'm just not willing to give you much of my time. I'm a very busy man." She winced. "I mean, I'm a very busy person."

Clapping her hands as if to move on she turned her head to look directly at me. "Anyway, I do apologize for this, but I'll only allow you five more quick questions."

"Five...? But... but I thought we had all afternoon. They said... I mean... this is the only interview you've done since--"

"Hold it right there." She held up her hand in a halting gesture. With a tilt of her head and a polite smile, she said, "I make the rules here, Christian. You have only five questions. Make them count."

She snatched up her drink, sat back on the sofa, and pointed a finger at me. "Now... what would you really... really like to know, Christian?"

Being put on the spot I couldn't think of one damned thing to ask her. Since I was at a loss, I pulled up some generic interview questions on a hololist.

"Errr, okay then, here's the first question. What do you want out of life?"

Without hesitation, she said, "To fix it."

"To fix it? What's wrong with it?" I asked.

She stared back at me like it was the dumbest question anyone had ever asked her. "Is that your second of five questions," she said.

"No, I thought... Oh, definitely not. Can you simply elaborate on your first answer please?"

She smiled. "Okay," she said. "I guess saying just 'to fix it' is a bit too brief." She took a sip, thinking. After a few moments she said, "Ever since I was a little boy I always fixed things in the house. My father died in a boating accident when I was four, so it was just me and my mom. I was the man of the house, essentially. My mom depended on me. She expected a lot out of me, too. I had to do well in school, do all my chores, and I had to help her with all the maintenance on the house.

"I guess that's where I get that need to fix things, to make things right for people. It stems from having grown up trying to make everything better for my mom."

"Thanks," I said. "Great answer."

"You're welcome."

She smiled a very pretty smile at me, and a sudden twinge of homophobia gripped me. I rationalized that my sexual attraction was for Catherine Ward's body, not for Dr. Calvin Stubbs, and that awkward feeling passed. "You're right," I said, averting my eyes. "I bet living in that body as a man can get confusing."

"Yes," she said, chuckling. "I've disposed of all mirrors in my life, and I try to look away and close my eyes when I take showers or change clothes."

"Really?" I asked. "Why? How does it make you feel when you look at yourself?"

"Well, that's a bit personal... but... is that your second question?"

I thought about that for a moment, and almost said yes, but then I shook my head, cursing my curiosity.

I needed a better question than asking how he felt. He could simply say he felt depressed, or that he misses his fiance, or that he's horny for his own body, which were all predictable answers. And then I'd have squandered a question.

I looked down at the hololist, picked out a question, and said, "What's the meanest thing you've ever done, Dr. Stubbs?"

Her face grew troubled. She looked away, and clutched her cup tighter. "I'm sitting here... in the body... of another human being, Mr. Powers. Do you really need to ask?"

She stared back at me. "Next question."

"Will you elaborate?"

She closed her eyes and grimaced, but agreed with a nod.

After a few more seconds of silence she took a deep breath and said, "I loved this woman. Kate... Kate was a wonderful person. Beautiful, always smiling, smart, outgoing, she was so full of life and so unselfish. She loved me and we were going to get married." She paused again. "Or at least I thought she loved me."

She leaned forward and put her cup down on the table. "When I was stuck in the world of Panacea there were people who knew I was still alive, or, at least, some rogue version of Dr. Stubbs was still active in the programming. They called me a glitch in the system, just the memories of Dr. Stubbs trapped in a line of programming code."

She picked her drink back up, sat back and said, "They chased me through that world from one continent to another, attempting to erase me, to eradicate what was left of Dr. Calvin Stubbs." She sounded angry or frustrated. "You see they couldn't... or wouldn't... accept that I was still alive after I'd been murdered, that I was the real Calvin Stubbs, still running around, running for my life and trapped in their precious state of the art virtual reality world, a world my inventions made possible.

"Instead they kept my existence a secret, and tried every trick they knew to end my life once and for all. In the end, with the help of friends I alerted to my existence, I used science in the form of a magic dagger called a switchblade to trade places with one of my pursuers, a person who had hunted me down with more tenacity and ruthlessness than any other. When I used the switchblade to trade avatars with that person, I immediately was able to quit the game because that avatar was a player character, not a computer generated drone like I'd become when I died playing the game."

She shook her head, tears welling up in her eyes.

"When I found myself in the real world I was elated, full of giddy euphoria at how I'd beaten them, outsmarted them and gotten myself back into the real world."

Without any change in her tone or expression, tears rolled down her impassive face.

"I had been especially proud of getting revenge on the player character that had hounded me so tirelessly, seeking to erase what was left of my essence from the game, from both worlds, actually, since I'd been murdered in real life. And then... and then, wanting to know the identity of that player, all I had to do was look in a mirror."

After a long silence of her staring at me with a steady gaze, she asked, "Why... I mean... why do you think she'd do that, come after me and try to kill me?"

I slowly shook my head, realizing even as I responded that the question was not meant for me.

"I just can't figure out why... why she did it. Why would she want me erased?"

Pointing at me, and staring even more intently into my eyes, Dr. Stubbs said, "And that is why I must find her. I must know why."

She sat back and wiped the tears from her face as if just noticing they were there. Her stony countenance hadn't wavered since the tears first appeared.

"Strange," she said. "I hadn't realized I was crying." She shook her head and frowned as she finished drying her face with her hand. "There aren't any tears in Panacea," she said with a nervous chuckle. "And it's a good thing, too. In the few weeks I was there I would have flooded the place."

Dr. Stubbs drained his cup and put it down.

"Kate's the glitch now," she said. "And she's on Panacea somewhere, lost and abandoned, with nobody believing her stories of once being human, once being a player. I know exactly how terrifying that feels." She shrugged, and smirked at me. "So, Christian, do you think that qualifies as the meanest thing I've ever done?"

I nodded.

"Next question."

Pulling my eyes off her I consulted the hololist. "Have you ever..." Here I faltered. "Err, maybe I should skip this quest--"

"No," she said. "Have I ever what?"

"Have you ever... killed anyone, Dr. Stubbs?"

"Not directly, no. Although as an inventor of over a hundred various applications of the Simsyn field I've caused many senseless deaths indirectly. Also, I've killed thousands of players in the virtual reality game where I was trapped, but I don't think that counts. They just start over."

"Much like you did in reverse, it seems."

She chuckled. "Yes... yes, I suppose." After a pause, she said, "Next question?"

"Certainly." I looked at the hololist. "It seems you've answered this one already. Have you ever been in love is the question. We can skip that one and treat it as answered if you like."

"Thank you. Last question?"

"Yes," I said, staring down at the hololist. "This seems like a silly one to ask you, and impossible to answer..."

She prodded me with a nod.

I shrugged. "Can you show me your scars?"

Dr. Stubbs chuckled. She pointed behind where we sat to an urn on a table along the wall. "You're welcome to go through my worldly ashes and see what you find."

I stared over at the urn. A small plaque beneath it read, 'The Mortal Remains of Dr. Calvin Stubbs. May his spirit live on forever.'

She got up, shook my hand and thanked me for being so gracious about her decision to cut our interview short.

I left the Building of Boston bewildered, but satisfied, wondering if death would ever beat the resourceful Dr. Calvin Stubbs. After our talk, I truly believe that death, despite its nearly flawless reputation up until now, doesn't even stand a chance against him... or her, as the case may be.

Writing Prompt
Interview one of the characters you created according to Kelsey Keating's method of creating depth in your characters.


to read about this process.

Can be dramatic, humorous, tragic, just give us deep insight to your character.

Character Interview
Contest Winner
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