About Liquid Muse:
This is a short science fiction story of 2600 words or approx. 10 print pages altogether.
Ron Varnhagen looked around. The office was spacious, all granite, steel and black leather. Designer furniture, of course, names and shapes and styles the knowledgeable would recognise. There was art on the walls, abstract swirls and random swishes of paint, exclusive and hideously expensive. Floor to ceiling plate glass windows took up two entire walls, providing a striking view across the city.
It was a space designed to impress, but that was only to be expected. Most start-ups spent a lot of effort on their headquarters to impress potential investors — garages or mismatched offices in converted warehouses had always been rare and become even rarer in recent years.
None of the potential investees had any idea how unimpressive their identikit offices really were, especially when you’d seen it all before and knew that this office suite and everything in it — designer furniture, artwork, even the sad potted palm in the corner — could be rented by the hour.
Jonah Winter sat enthroned behind an ebony desk. He was still young — mid-thirties perhaps — and tried to look even younger. Three days beard, precisely trimmed and cultivated, hipster designer glasses he didn’t really need, a Savile Row suit over a Kylo Ren t-shirt (the idiot didn’t even have enough sense to go for Darth Vader), hand-stitched Italian trainers. Winter was every inch the model of a modern CEO and every inch a poser.
He rose when his administrative assistant — for today, at least, since she’d been probably rented along with the office — showed Ron in.
“Ronny,” Winter exclaimed in that annoying faux jovial tone of start-up founders everywhere, So good of you to drop by.” He held out his hand, a sharkish smile on his face. “I trust you’ve ascertained yourself of the qualities of our product?”
Ron ignored the proffered hand. “Indeed, I have. Which is why I’m here. So let’s cut to the chase, Winter. No need to flatter me — I know it’s all an act anyway.”
The smile vanished. “All right. So have you… uhm… tested our product on yourself?”
“No, I paid someone to test it,” Ron replied, “This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to invest in a new miracle drug, you know? Not all of them work as advertised or at all, so I’d rather not run the risk of testing it on myself.”
“Our product works exactly as advertised,” Winter declared with the smug confidence of someone certain of his genius, “No side effects either.”
“So I realised once I read the report of the young man I paid to test it,” Ron said, “So I decided to give it a shot myself. Quite literally.”
Winter’s gaze grew speculative. “And…?”
“I had ten excellent ideas in two hours,” Ron admitted grudgingly ,”Normally, I have that many in a month. So your product works. What I want to know is how?”
Winter slapped him on the back in another demonstration of faux camaraderie. “Oh, come on, Ronny, you know that I can’t possibly reveal any trade secrets and proprietary information without a firm commitment, signed and issued in writing.”
Ron moved away, out of Winter’s backslapping range. “I’m not asking you for the damned formula,” he growled, “All I want to know the basics of what precisely your product is. Because so far, all attempts to pharmaceutically enhance human creativity have failed miserably. Unless you count alcohol and various street drugs with their unfortunate side effects.”
“Side effects which my product does not have,” Winter boasted, “Creativity at the press of an injector, where you need it and when you need it — no impairment, no side effects, non-addictive…”
“I don’t want a goddamned ad slogan, I want to know what it is.”
Winter’s eyes — icy blue, as befitted his name — narrowed. “Did you have the product analysed?”
“Of course, I had it analysed,” Ron snapped, “You don’t think I’d run the potential liability risk of injecting an untested drug into a volunteer, even if I’m paying him handsomely for the privilege.”
“The lab said that substance is organic. Biological. Contains animal protein. And DNA. Human DNA. So what sort of fucking Soylent Green are you trying to sell me here?”
Winter stumbled backwards, clearly caught off guard. “Soylent what? The protein shake, you mean?”
“No, like in the movie. You know, ‘Soylent Green is people’?”
The confused look on Jonah Winter’s face told Ron that he didn’t.
“Let me guess, you haven’t seen the movie.”
Winter shook his head.
“Ah well, it was probably before your time. Anyway, what I’m saying here is that I don’t want a potential PR nightmare on my hands, when it turns out your product is created by unethical means. So if your drug contains the shredded bodies of Iraqi war orphans, I need to know. Now.”