A Meeting of the Minds by John Timm
A Meeting of the Minds by John Timm
Friday, June 13, 2025
The scientific journals were jammed with articles about it. The cable news networks couldn’t get enough of it. It had become routine fodder for late night TV talk show comedians.
What was once highly secret was now common knowledge: Dr. Alejandro Pimentel and his cohort at the Institute of Advanced Medicine had perfected the storage of human intelligence. In the keynote speech before the International Health Science Association annual convention, Dr. Pimentel described the process as “little different from copying data files from one type of storage device to another.” He added that the process would cause no harm or discomfort to the donor. “There is no need for invasive surgery, no need for brain probes or hardwired connectors. The subject simply lies for a short time within a cylinder that envelops the head. Think of it as an MRI scan without all the noise.”
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Pimentel promised the ultimate step was close on the horizon, the uploading of this stored intelligence to the brains of other humans. He further claimed many of the greatest minds and high achievers of the day would soon be visiting the institute to share the content of their brains with the world. “In the area of preserving learning and accomplishment for the ages, sperm banks, cryonics, and our cumbersome, time consuming system of education as we know it are now as outmoded as the internal combustion engine.”
Predictably, the donor waiting list quickly grew as long as it was prestigious. Physicists, biologists, surgeons, engineers, mathematicians, heads of state, corporate and financial leaders, artists, musicians, and as one might expect, anyone with sufficient notoriety and an ego to match.
Monday, July 7, 2025
Derek and Jamie joined the institute right after graduation from trade school. They soon became best friends, renting a room together at a nearby apartment complex where many of the institute staff lived. Their duties were mundane at best, mainly requisitioning supplies, performing the accompanying inventory, and general cleanup. As Class III Transfer Laboratory Orderlies working the night shift, they were hardly insiders and had little contact with the daytime laboratory staff. Still, there was always the knowledge, fed by sensational stories in the media and the abundant rumors that followed, that whatever went on in the lab during the day, it was leading edge, mysterious and exotic—enough to fire the imagination of most anyone, but especially that of Derek whose imagination quickly morphed into obsession, leading to hours of conjecture at a nearby bar after work.
“What if we were able to get hold of some of that brain power for ourselves?”
Jamie leaned forward. “You mean we try to put somebody else’s smarts into our own heads?”
“You got it. Can you even imagine what it would be like?” A satisfied smile spread across Derek’s face as he contemplated the idea.
“So how do we do that? We really don’t know the first thing about how any of that lab equipment works. Besides, after we leave, the place is locked overnight with an alarm and a security guard.” Jamie leaned back in his chair. “I’m not so sure about this.”
Derek countered, “Look, sometimes in life you gotta’ take chances. Stick with me and I’ll teach you not to be such a wuss.” He punched his friend playfully in the arm. “Anyway, I’ve almost got this all figured that out. Give me a little more time. I’ll make it all clear for you . . ..” He signaled the server. “One more round and then some sleep, okay?”
Friday, July 18, 2025
While Derek plotted night after night and Jamie offered one objection upon another, the laboratory team doctors were about to become embroiled in debates of their own. Dr. Pimentel had made a point of attending what would otherwise have been a routine monthly lab staff meeting. Flanked by his directors of security and information technology, his surprise appearance in the sterile confines of the white-walled executive conference room stirred expectation around all sides of the black marble conference table.
“We have tapped an awesome reservoir of knowledge, with an opportunity to preserve it for all time. But there are accompanying dangers we need to address sooner rather than later.”
Dr. Pimentel proceeded to enumerate a number of issues that had been on his mind. “Since we are accumulating intellectual property of the highest order, we need to be more concerned for the security of personal information.” He looked about for signs of approbation. Satisfied, he continued. “Of course, our attorneys have covered that point in the documentation, but a breach would nonetheless be catastrophic to the point of dooming the project entirely.” On hearing this dire pronouncement from their leader, the assemblage shifted in its chairs. Someone coughed. Another took a hard sip of his water. All eyes stared forward.
“And there is always the danger of the data falling into the wrong hands. Again, we’ve sworn to prevent that. But have we taken enough steps that our reassurance is more than just lip service? I’m not terribly concerned about an internal breach. We have excellent full time security here at the institute.” The Director of Facilities Security smiled and took a half step forward. Dr. Pimentel paused, and the Director of Facilities Security just as quickly returned to his rightful place, his smile in retreat, as well. Dr. Pimentel continued, “ However, with all the publicity we’ve been receiving, what I fear most is a cyberattack. I don’t need to remind you, the entire nation was the recent target and has barely recovered. I’m worried that someone on the outside, whether in this country or abroad, could gain access to our data storage. Bottom line, do we want superior knowledge on, say, national defense, falling into the hands of some rogue government?”
Dr. Hermann Kline reinforced the director’s words, “We have promised the donors that the files will not be accessed, evaluated or compromised until they die. Not one minute before —”
From across the board table, Dr. Clement Gerbaz, felt compelled to interrupt his colleague, “— Some of you make it sound like anyone could just sit there and literally read these minds on a computer screen. May I remind you that the storage process is a brain wave to digital conversion. I’m not certain we’ve even perfected a way to decode the information. And we still don’t know if we can we can successfully separate emotion, motor skills and other memory components. We aren’t there yet. It could take a month, a year, maybe years. With all due respect, I say the announcement of success was at best premature.”
Dr. Russell Wolf chimed in at that point. “And while we’re at it, I question some of the individuals we’ve been allowing to donate files. I thought this was to be the crème de la crème of genius and achievement. From some of the donor names I’m seeing, it seems more and more like a crass money-making venture on our part.”
With clear signs of irritation in his voice, Dr. Pimentel regained control of the discussion. “I’m confident that we are close to a major decoding breakthrough. We don’t know when, but I, for one, believe it is much closer than some of you, apparently. You have all been making steady progress, and I commend you for it. Meanwhile, we must all be prepared for any security contingency.”
Other than the airing of strongly held views, the meeting adjourned with little accomplished and few, if any, minds changed.
Tuesday, July 22, 2025
As a follow up to the senior lab staff meeting, Dr. Pimentel requested his two lieutenants in facilities security and information technology prepare reports on the current status of lab security by month’s end.
Wednesday, July 30, 2025
In the report delivered to Dr. Pimentel, the Director of Information Technology pointed out several key areas of vulnerability. Among them, the brain data files were catalogued by donor surname, using a simple alpha numeric filing system without encryption. Dr. Pimentel ordered the IT director to take immediate steps to make the database more secure.
The Director of Facilities Security was already convinced he’d made the institute as secure as humanly possible. Dr. Pimentel himself had said as much at the monthly department meeting. Besides, he was heading to a Florida vacation the following Saturday morning. He’d checked out mentally weeks before, and the thought of conducting a thorough security study held little appeal. The report that landed on Dr. Pimentel’s desk was a mere regurgitation of routine monthly reports, reports that normally only his assistant read and then duly filed, most likely forever.
Monday, August 4, 2025
It should have been expected. The IT director immediately ran into stiff opposition from several senior lab staff members. Revising the file transfer protocol at this point was out of the question. It was a common refrain: “We’re being pushed to the limit as it is. We’re on deadline for the first data uploads. Give us the staff resources, the budget, and the time and we’ll get it done. Otherwise, it’ll have to wait. Dr. Pimentel was, at least for now, unaware of this hiccup in the data security upgrade.
Wednesday, August 6, 2025
As the days passed, it was becoming harder for Derek to control his enthusiasm. “We need to act when lab security is most vulnerable.”
Jamie looked around the bar. Fortunately, it was almost deserted at the late hour. “Keep it down, will ya? Somebody could hear us. The bartender . . . or a server.”
Derek took a long sip of beer, lowering his voice to just above a whisper. “You worry way too much. They have no clue what we’re talking about. Anyway, I’ve glanced at the work schedules posted by the front door security check point. They only put one guard on duty on the Sunday night to Monday morning shift between ten and six. There’s no cleaning crew in the building that night, either.”
“But the guard is still there, making his rounds.”
“So . . . do you happen to know who the weekend overnight guard is?”
“Can’t say as I do. What difference does that make? He’s armed, and if he shoots us, we’re just as dead whether we know him or not.”
“Well, I do know who he is, and he lives over in Building D of our complex. Practically on top of us. What if one Sunday night he doesn’t show up for work?”
Jamie paused before speaking to digest what he had just heard. “I don’t like where this is going, but for now let’s suppose we somehow disable security for a few hours and make it into the lab without being caught. How do we know what to do once we get in there?”
“I’ve got that covered too,” Derek said with a flourish of his free hand. The remaining beer in the bottom of his mug in his other hand sloshed from side to side as he spoke.
“You know when I take the trash down to the loading dock for shredding ? Well, not all of it gets shredded.”
“Meaning . . . ?”
Derek drank the remainder of the beer and banged the mug down on the table. “Meaning I’ve already put together enough information that I think I know how to work the transfer unit. In fact, I’m sure of it. I’ve rehearsed it in my head dozens of times. We’re just about ready.”
Monday, August 11, 2025
“We’ll kidnap the guard . . . Don’t worry. Just for a few hours. Remember, it’s Sunday night into Monday morning. I did some checking. He lives alone. Nobody’ll miss him. Tie him up in his apartment. Take his uniform, ID, keys and pass cards. I’ve made a list. That’s where my brother-in-law, Artie, comes in.”
“Your creepy brother-in-law? Why are you involving him in this?”
“He owes me. I saved his butt a couple of times when he was on probation. Now there’s a bunch of warrants out for him for some other things he did. I’m helping him with a new identity and getting him out of town. Some . . . documents. Let’s leave it at that.”
“So your brother-in-law he does . . . does what?”
“Artie comes in at the shift change, only a few minutes later. The regular guard—our neighbor—is usually late. Been watching it carefully. The guard who’s going off duty is used to it and leaves right at ten. He’ll already be gone when we show up, never know his replacement is really our guy.”
“You claim you’ve thought this whole thing through. Well, I haven’t. And I’m not so sure you have, either. What if something goes wrong? One of us—or both of us— if we don’t get caught, might end up . . . I don’t know . . . like Frankenstein, or some other monster.”
“Look. You’ve heard the names of some of the donors. Nobody’s a monster . . . Think about having the IQ of a NASA scientist. Or maybe somebody rich and famous . . ..”
“Okay. So what do we do when the guard gets free and calls the cops on us?”
“He won’t know who we are. Up ‘til now he’s only seen us a couple of times, and we’ll be masked, anyway. Piece of cake.”
“But we can’t stay working at the lab. The guard living in the same apartment complex . . . that’s too close for comfort. They’ll connect us right away. At the very least, we’ll be high on the suspect list. You think you’re committing the perfect crime. There are lots of people in jail, or dead, who thought the same thing.”
“Chill out, bro. Circumstantial. They can’t prove a thing if we keep our stories straight and vouch for each other. As long as we rehearse our alibi, we’ll be okay. Better that than running. Then we’re suspects for sure. Remember, we live together—I’m your witness, you’re mine.”
Wednesday, August 13, 2025
“We’re going to steal the guard’s car, too? Are you crazy? Do you know how many years we’ll get for grand theft auto—on top of breaking and entering, kidnapping, and who knows what else?”
“Look, Jamie, there’s cameras in the apartment parking lot and all the way along the street at the ATMs and convenience stores, and right outside the institute. That’s just for starters. Those are the ones we know about. When the cops start looking at all those videos, I don’t want my car showing up. Or maybe should we drive yours . . .? No . . . ? I thought so.”
“We’ll still be suspects. They’re bound to bring us in for questioning. What do we tell them when they separate us and ask where we were and all that?”
“Like I’ve said, we’re each other’s best alibi. We were at the apartment. Sleeping like the rest of the world. Our cars will still be in the lot. The only vehicle missing will be the guard’s.
It’ll be the only one showing up on the surveillance cameras. And we’ll be wearing masks. Hell, if we’re lucky they may end up pinning this whole thing on him . . ..”
Sunday, August 17, 2025
The rest of the week went fast—too fast for Jamie, not fast enough for Derek. At 9:30 p.m., Sunday night, Derek and Artie knocked on the door in the nearby building. Barely awake, the guard didn’t figure out what was happening until it was too late. After tying him up and covering his mouth with several layers of duct tape, they dragged him into a bedroom closet at the far end of the apartment where it would be hard to hear him if he managed to call for help. Jamie stayed outside in the shadows in front of the building, biting his nails down to the quick.
Wearing hoodies, they got into the guard’s car. Jamie handed out full face masks. “Richard Nixon, meet the Penguin. Penguin, meet Chucky.” He turned the ignition key. They rode in silence the rest of the way to the institute.
The surrounding streets were empty. At 10:05 p.m. Artie got out of the car, stripped off his mask and headed up the sidewalk to the institute in full guard dress right down to the gun and two-way radio. As planned, Derek and Jamie remained in the car another five minutes.
“I can’t. I can’t go through with it, Derek.”
“You have to, Jamie.”
“No. No, I don’t. And I won’t. You go ahead. I’ll wait here.”
“I can’t do it without you. We went into this together. Remember? Now get your sorry ass out of this car. We have work to do.”
“You can do the data transfer. I’ll watch. I’ve been thinking about it. A lot. I don’t want any part of mixing somebody else’s brain with mine. That’s what we’re going to be doing, mixing somebody else’s entire life with ours. Nothing good can come of it.”
“That’s not how it works. It erases your old memory, first.”
“I can’t believe you’re saying that. That’s even worse. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I knew you’d have a shit fit. Look, I’m not here to debate this with you. Are you coming or not?”
The pair walked up to a side entrance, Derek in the lead. He pushed the door bell several times. A sliver of light showed beneath the windowless door. The sliver turned to a yellow wedge, then full-on brightness. Out of the brightness stepped Artie, “Cool it with the friggin’ bell. I heard you the first time.”
“Everything okay inside?”
“I wouldn’t be here chatting with you if it wasn’t.”
“Cameras and alarms off and all that?”
“Let’s get it over with, then.”
“I’m not going to do the transfer, Artie. Just Derek.”
“Then the best thing you can do is help him and otherwise stay out of the way. I’ll stay up here at the guard station.”
Though no one was going to admit it, the tension of the moment and the late hour emptiness of the institute were disconcerting. In silence, Derek and Jamie moved swiftly past their work area in the lab storeroom and into the lab itself. Once inside, Derek took command. The pair kept their masks on just in case there were hidden cameras.
Jamie asked, “What about Artie’s mask? He took it off.”
“Well duh. That’s because real guards don’t usually look like the Penguin. Don’t worry about it. He’s going to look a whole lot different once he gets to where he’s going. It won’t matter. Anyway, we’re wasting time. The file I want is CDF 0220LP. Like the other files, there’s an “A” file and a “B” file. Please access them in order. Please?”
Derek lay down and made himself comfortable on the transfer unit’s long, padded table. “You know how to start the machine, right? You’d better. We’ve talked this through enough times.”
Without replying, Jamie began pushing buttons and making adjustments in the sequence he’d carefully practiced with Derek.
“What’s wrong? Why are you taking so long?”
“Nothing’s wrong, Derek. I just want to make sure I’ve got everything set up the way we rehearsed it. I’m ready if you are.”
The deletion sequence and downloading the two data files took nearly two hours. Meanwhile, Jamie kept one eye on Derek and the machine, one on the lab door. He felt better whenever Artie would come into the lab from time to time to reassure him all was clear in the building.
For his part, Derek said nothing. At first, Jamie would ask him how he felt. After asking several times and getting no reply, he gave up.
Monday, August 18, 2025, 3:22 a.m.
Upon awakening, he was a new man, with a new past, a new future. On one hand, the body of Derek Rusk, age 23, low-level employee at the Institute of Advanced Medicine. On the other, the mind, the memory—perhaps even the soul—of Lee Porter, 53, CEO of a multinational adult entertainment empire. Unbeknownst to Dr. Pimentel and the Transfer Lab staff at the Institute of Advanced Medicine, the first interpersonal download of human intelligence from one brain to another had been a technical success.
Derek Rusk-Lee Porter sat up and looked about the lab perplexed. “What the hell is this place . . . ? It’s the institute, isn’t it? Why am I here again? What are you doing to me? I should have never gotten involved with any of this in the first place. Get out of my way.”
Derek Rusk-Lee Porter bolted from the machine, pushed past Jamie and Artie and disappeared down the hallway leading to the front entrance. There was a vehicle parked up the street. The only vehicle in sight. He raced towards it, ripping the mask from his face as he ran. To his amazement, the key in his pocket worked in the ignition. Whatever was going on, Derek Rusk-Lee Porter needed to get home fast where he felt secure and could sort things out.
Monday, August 18, 2025, 4:03 a.m.
The security guard at the gated entrance to the Porter estate approached the unfamiliar vehicle in the drive. “May I see some identification?”
Don’t just stand there and stare at me. Open the gate . . . Get going. Don’t you recognize me? I live here . . . For God’s sake, I’m Lee Porter. You work for me. Now open the damn gate.”
“I do not recognize you, sir.”
“This is absurd.” Derek Rusk-Lee Porter searched his pockets. Just an unfamiliar wallet. He flung it to the floorboard. “I’m afraid I don’t have any identification. But you still don’t recognize me?”
“I’m afraid not. Besides, Mr. Porter is in the Bahamas. I spoke with him barely an hour ago. I’ve never seen you before. Now please leave before I call the police and have you arrested for trespassing.”
Derek Rusk-Lee Porter looked in the rear view mirror, horrified at what he saw. On impulse, he jumped from the vehicle. He and the security guard struggled for several moments.
He grabbed for the guard’s gun. It fired…
Monday, August 18, 2025, 6:45 a.m.
Some 1,500 miles to the east, the morning sun was emerging over an emerald sea. Lee Porter stood poolside with a companion. A few stragglers from last night’s partying remained, drunken and asleep on loungers. A green bottle sent shimmers of light from the bottom of the pool. Plastic cups and a pizza box bobbed in a lazy rhythm on the surface. Lee Porter clutched his chest.
“You don’t look so good, Lee.”
“I’ve felt weird for the last couple hours. Like some sort of out of body experience.”
“You going to be okay?”
“Yeah. It’s nothing. Probably just the pepperoni fighting with the booze.”
“Let me get you another glass of red. As they say, there’s nothing like the hair of the dog…”
Copyright John Timm 2021