And with straightsoul, p.1
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       And, With StraightSoul, p.1
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           Daniel Vermillion
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And, With StraightSoul
And, With StraightSoul

  By DC Vermillion

  Copyright ? 2016 By DC Vermillion. All Right Reserved.

  No part of this material may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of very brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

  Disclaimer: Any similarities to any persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This is a work of fiction.

  Dedication: To my wife, Debra. Thank you for all your love and support in making this possible. And also to Andy, Twiggy, Terry, Brice and Mic for suffering as my beta readers on this project and others? Without them, I wouldn't have gotten this done. Thank you. And also to the dear reader, I hope that you enjoy this work of fiction.

  And, With StraightSoul

  "...You get our million dollar, million year, guarantee. Simply the best offer ever made, anywhere!"

  The middle-aged man, in the commercial, looks to be a scientist, or doctor, or something. He has a white lab coat, stethoscope, and salt & pepper hair, that's too slick by half. His voice drips honey smoothness, while his eyes convey honesty. I couldn't be sicker to my stomach. My temples throb. I've seen this one before, several dozen times.

  The man strides to a bank of square black boxes that twinkle with blue, green, and red lights. It stands several times his height, against a wall of black granite. Granite is used, I imagine, to convey the permanency of this offer. I wonder if a place like that really does exist outside of whatever studio it was shot in. The throbbing in my temples dulls a bit. I've been at this for what seems like an eternity.

  But, as the lead attorney for LaMey & Fisk, I know I must push on. If we are to be ready for our class-action lawsuit by week's end, I have to. There's a hole in the clauses somewhere, I'm certain. I search through the reams of terms and conditions.

  The man in the lab coat drones on. "Using our patented Spiritual Optimization by Utilizing Logarithms, or S.O.U.L., we will guarantee a Virtual Paradise for you, or your loved one's, consciousness for well over the next million years." The actor folds his hands. "We will all pass on, one day. But, with StraightSoul, when you do pass on, we'll ensure your consciousness is transferred into our servers. And at a cost of only one million dollars, why, that's less than a dollar, per year."

  The camera cuts to animation of geothermal generators changing the Earth's internal heat directly into electricity, without moving parts. Another man, another lab coat, says even NASA guarantees that their generators, along with the black, twinkling servers, will work well past a million years. I no longer pay attention to the slick packaging; I know it all by heart.

  No moving parts means no wear, and with the seismically stable vault, the souls are guaranteed. But I don't care about guarantees; it's the warranties that are important. Nothing can be over-looked, if the dearly departed's families are going to have a chance, in court. But how do I fight a company that has sold over a million, million dollar products, in the last twelve months alone? It's a trillion dollar company versus me, and my firm. How can I win?

  I know others are working different angles, but I simply can't rely on some nameless and faceless 'others' to do their work. I must do mine while I can. I wonder what day it is, realizing immediately it's Sunday, and just past noon. Church is out.

  My wife Patrice will be home soon, and she will want to run over to Stanley and Marge Waverley's house. Marge is Patty's sister, and Stan's been a close friend, since college. We do it every week. There's a knock at the door.

  I ignore it, and then stretch a bit. My back cracks. Looking at the television wall, I'm thankful the commercial is over. The white door to my study opens.

  "Everything okay in here, Donald?" asks Patrice. She pokes her beautiful head into the room.

  I never heard the car pull up, and wonder if the brilliant blue hologram numbers on the desk are correct. Sapphire jewels hang, midair, in the shape of two after twelve. It should read one o'clock, for her to be home.

  She steps into the room, looking as lovely as ever, in a tan and black dress, with matching high heels, that seem tailored to order. The bill in the drawer says they were. I don't mind, it relieves the headache. Her face, filled with curiosity, is framed with her curly blonde locks.

  "Just work, and remnants of my hangover."

  "Ah ha! So you WERE drinking last night. I never even heard you come in. I thought maybe you were-" The curiosity drains from her, replaced by a look of anger? Betrayal? Goodness knows what she is thinking after my confession.

  Pangs of guilt mix with hunger. I realize I haven't eaten for a while. Dear Patrice, she's worried for me. Or maybe she's worried I was having another fling, like I did twenty odd years ago with her roommate. Even after all these years, somehow, the haunted look in her eyes said that the trust wasn't earned back. I wonder if it ever will be. Maybe it's my imagination this time.

  "Another Jill?" she asks.

  "That was over twenty years ago, and she's been dead for ten."

  "Then what was it!"

  "I'm sorry, it's this case."

  "It's always; this case."

  "This is different," I say, briskly.

  "It's always different!" she shouts, leaving the study. She slams the door behind her.

  Moments tick by in silence as I wait, listening for Patrice's footfalls going down the hall. It never comes. Picking up a pencil and legal pad, to begin again, I hear her muffled voice from behind the door.

  "Are you sober enough to go to Stanley and Marge's house, for lunch?"

  "I'm sober. My head hurts is all."

  "Good, they are expecting us at one thirty. So, get ready."

  With a mind to protest, I toss the pencil and pad back onto the desk. I need to work, but also need to make up for being out so late. I'd surprised myself by blurting out that it was a hangover.

  That's what it felt like, although I don't remember drinking. The previous evening is blurry in my mind. All I can recall is lab coats, and images of the actor from the commercial. I realize I've been at this way too long, and decide making up is the best course. Besides, after an evening off, maybe I'll see things from a new angle, find a better approach. My mind works like that.

  My old friend, Dr. Stanley Waverley, would agree, as he knows me so well. Never mind the fact that he's a neurosurgeon. He's likely to come up with a dozen reasons why. I really should've married his sister, Jill.

  "Are you going to get ready?" came the terse, yet muffled voice of Patrice, from the other side of the door.

  Running my hand through my hair, I call back yes, and then slip my shoes over bare feet. The white shirt and black pants, that I'm wearing, are obviously slept in.

  "I'll need to shower first."

  My voice carries and Patrice's responds nearly instantaneously. "Your things are already hanging in the bathroom,"

  No more words are exchanged between us, until we are on I-80 with my hair dripping in my eyes as I drive. We bypass the city. Drops of water stain the shoulders of my gray dinner jacket. Patrice broods in the passenger seat of our limited edition, Classic Rapscallion Elite. With its brown, leather, chesterfield seating, it makes me nostalgic. Patrice's Uncle, Anton LaMey, had given me one to take Patty on our first date. That day stood crystallized in my memory, as it was the first time I met Patty and Jill. My mind turns to Stanley.

  "Maybe I'll ask Stanley to be deposed this week," I mumble aloud. "As an expert witness." I know he's no fan of this computerized spirit mumbo jumbo. He's voiced concerns over neurological damage, in a few of the
major journals. The idea flickered to life, before fading.

  "Are you kidding me?" asks Patty, with bewilderment. "Marge's application for StraightSoul approval has been held up for weeks, probably because of our friendship with them. You'd have Stanley risk that? Senators and Congressmen have been turned down, for less."

  "Well, maybe that wouldn't be a bad thing."

  "Being turned down from a chance at living forever NOT a bad thing? You have your head way too deep into this case."

  "That's not living," I say, referring to the black boxed, Virtual Paradise. "Heck, to me, it smells of fraud. And I believe it's been Stan's unwillingness to sign off on having probes sunk into his wife's head, that's been the hold up. There's no guarantee on such a procedure."

  Patrice looks at me quizzically. "And how many people have had the procedure done?"

  I take my eyes off Sunday traffic for a moment to answer. "You mean this past year? Or in total."

  "In total. The United States and World." My wife's voice is light and sweet, thinly disguising the rattrap I know is now set. Light traffic gives way to slate skies. We crest a hill, and the first sprinkles of the approaching storm hit the windshield.

  "Around eight million from the US and fifteen million worldwide."

  "And how many complaints from those that actually had the procedure done?"

  I already know the answer from the newspapers, television, and my own
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