I Am a Brain in a Jar

Catching Up

January 25, 2021 Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter Season 1 Episode 26
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Catching Up
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Catching Up
Jan 25, 2021 Season 1 Episode 26
Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter

Some old friends catch up after a very, very long time.

Includes "Uncanny Valley Plastology" by Klaus Brenner and "Catching Up" by Dr. Brandon Winter.

Show Notes Transcript

Some old friends catch up after a very, very long time.

Includes "Uncanny Valley Plastology" by Klaus Brenner and "Catching Up" by Dr. Brandon Winter.

Do you ever wish you could be beautiful? Like, not just cute or handsome, but legitimately model-level gorgeous? As in, so stunningly attractive you cause multiple fatal car accidents every time you walk down the street? Then let me introduce you to the fine minds at Uncanny Valley Plastology.

At Uncanny Valley, they don’t believe in half measures. They realize that fixing a bulbous nose here or a weak chin there doesn’t really accomplish anything. Instead, they will scrape off your entire face and replace it with space-age polymers. 

You’ll be left with an entirely new visage, one free of all the blemishes and imperfections that make you human. A face so symmetrical and unnaturally perfect that all who gaze upon it will be moved to tears and/or vomit.

Uncanny Valley Plastology. Isn’t it time for you to be as soulless and vapid on the outside as you are on the inside?

The R&R Diner is either the first or the last sign of civilization, depending on which way you’re going. It doesn’t look like much, suspended between stars and barely able to seat more than twenty at a time, but when the food light is on and you haven’t eaten in a century, it radiates the majesty of a palace. 

That light shines brightly as a ship approaches.

The cook counts eggs as an artificial voice fills her in on all she missed while asleep—two wars, a depression, eight more colonies, and a new musical genre. Not much for fifty years. 

Her hair is still wet from the hibernation tank as she pins her nametag to her apron. It says Najat, but everyone calls her Granny, even though she’s only 31. But being 31 for 300 years earns you a name like that. 

She puts a steak on the grill as the metronome wail of an alarm beats her ears. She presses the steak slightly with a spatula and flips a switch just above the fryer. The room shakes and settles into silence. The ship is here.

Najat pours pancake batter onto the griddle as her thoughts drift to the orders: Peter will want steak and eggs, Rachel a double stack of pancakes with maple syrup, and the engineers will wait in the ship. She’ll send them pie. 

A timer goes off, and she flips the pancakes, checks the steak—the fat is just starting to melt—and pours the coffee. This is her favorite part of the shift, when time is most important, when the space between success and failure is narrowest and a wasted minute could linger in someone’s half-waking dreams for a generation. She likes the dance of cooking, but she loves the challenge of time.

The airlock opens with a hiss, followed by a plum of oxygen vapor as Peter and Rachel step inside. Najat sets two cups of coffee on the counter, with cream for Rachel, and begins to stack the pancakes. They’re on the counter before Rachel sits down and picks up her fork. Rachel waves once as she bends over her plate, holding her wet hair away from her face. Najat hands Peter a towel and he wipes his face before handing it to Rachel. 

“Granny,” Peter says as he settles onto his stool. “It’s been awhile.” 

Najar slides the steak and eggs onto a plate and hands it to him.

“Has it? It feels like yesterday.” 

Rachel looks up, smiles, then takes a sip of her coffee. The steam fogs her glasses and she shrugs. 

“Might as well be,” she says. “What’s been going on while we were away?” 

Najat leans on the counter and picks a piece of gristle from Peter’s steak. He lightly slaps her hand and waves her away, but he doesn’t stop her. He hides a smile behind his coffee cup as she pops it in her mouth and chews.

“Not much,” Najat says. “But your music collection is probably out of date again.” 

Peter wipes up an egg yolk with a piece of toast.

“Another one. Is it danceable?” 

Najat refills their coffee, pulls a pancake off the griddle and takes a bite. 

“Not really, but I like the bass.” 

Rachel pushes back from the counter and pats her stomach. She’s looking at the clock above the grill, but her eyes are elsewhere, somewhere in space on the other side of the diner. 

“Where the hell have we been?” she says.

Peter opens a packet of jam and begins scooping it out with his little finger. Najat holds up a spoon, he shakes his head.

“Ah,” Peter says, “the crisis.” 

Najat looks at the clock. 

“Right on time,” she chuckles. 

Rachel snorts, then scrapes syrup off of her plate with the side of her fork and licks it.

“You know what I mean,” she mutters. 

Peter finishes his coffee and sets his mug on his plate.

“The world happens now, we play catch-up later,” he says. 

“We are later,” says Rachel as she stands up and pops her back. 

Najat takes their plates and places them in the sink.

“I don’t know, '' she says. “It’ll line up again one day. Probably.” 

Peter stands up and straightens his hibernation jacket as Rachel reaches into her pocket. 

Najat shakes her head.

“I’ll put it on your tab. You’re good for it.” 

Peter puts a finger to his forehead in a mock salute and begins walking towards the airlock.

“Granny, it’s been a pleasure as always. See you in fifty or so.” 

Najat waves before reaching under the counter and taking out two pie boxes. She hands them to Rachel. The cardboard is limp with steam and Najat realizes her timing wasn’t perfect. Next time, then. 

“Here you go. Pecan and lemon merengue.”

Rachel takes them, smiles, nods, and turns away. 

Najat waits for a moment, knowing Rachel will turn around again. She does, while wiping fog from her glasses. Her eyes are red.

“Thank you,” she murmurs. 

Nayat takes her hand. They stand looking at each for a moment before Rachel straightens her hibernation jacket and walks through the airlock. When she reaches the door, Najat raises her hand.


 Rachel turns around and raises an eyebrow. 

“Tell them to eat the merengue first. It won’t keep.” 

Rachel laughs and pushes the lock release before stepping back through the cloud of vapor. 

 “See you tomorrow, Granny.” The door closes. 

“We’ll catch up,” says Najat as she wipes down the counter.