A Life Worth Living - a John the Genius Story - Cover

A Life Worth Living - a John the Genius Story

by PT Brainum

Copyright© 2019 by PT Brainum

Science Fiction Story: On the eve of turning eight years old omniscient genius John Cook begins to collect the people he needs, and starts his University education in 1985 Oklahoma. Sequel to Perfect Choices

Tags: Coming of Age   Science Fiction   Time Travel   Alternate Timeline   Extra Sensory Perception  

“Mom, it’s my only chance. If I don’t go there is no telling where they will hold it next year. It’s just Ft Worth, that’s hardly far at all.” I complained

“I just can’t take you. It’s a week long tournament, I just can’t take the time. I have to finish packing, and we have to get settled. Mattie starts her new school on the 13th, the day after it ends. I’m sorry but there is just no way.” Mom said with finality.

“If I find a way, can I go?” I asked.

“I’ll consider it. Until then please go do something outside.” Mom requested.

I went outside and got on my bike. I biked down to the river, where I stopped and did Tai Chi. As I focused and relaxed into the moment, the tension left me. The voices of the future came.

You know there is a way.

Mom is going to be so mad if I do it.

We know exactly how mad she will be. The choice is yours, it’s not particularly important.

It impresses the right people at the right time.

The question is how important is it to you? Do you do it for the plan, or do you do it for the glory, or do you do it for the fun of pulling it off, no matter how mad everyone gets? Why do you live the life you’re living, what makes it worth the effort?

I like the idea of flying my plane the best, but if I do that I’ll get grounded, literally, for years.

The choice is yours.

“I’m going, but I’ll fly commercial.” I said making the decision out loud.

Tomorrow is July 4th, 1984, and my birthday. I’ll turn eight years old. My name is John Wayne Cook, I have a photographic memory, a documented IQ somewhere above 170, and I’m omniscient.

Earlier this year I gained the ability to remember future events. Future versions of me can go anywhere and do anything. The things they experience and learn I can remember. There is no practical limit to what they can learn, experience, or discover, and sometimes we talk to each other.

Our conversation was because I am desperate to go to Ft. Worth Texas for the US Chess Open tournament. It starts on August 4th, and ends on the 12th. I wanted to go and win. Winning was not the hard part. Five weeks ago I played 200 skilled chess players, 40 at a time, simultaneously. I won every game but one, and that was a draw with an internationally ranked chess grandmaster.

There were currently three viable options. One, not go. Two, take a commercial flight from Tulsa to Ft. Worth. Three, take my brand new Pterodactyl pTiger ultralight airplane. The problem with number three is that it comes as a kit, and has not yet arrived. Still it would have been so cool to fly myself to the competition.

My family was planning their normal birthday/holiday celebration. This year my grandparents would be coming to join the celebration. I would be getting a lot of presents this year. I wasn’t getting extra presents for turning eight.

I was getting presents because I had graduated from high school and accepted to start at TU, The University of Tulsa, this fall. I was getting lots of presents because I sent a letter to my Grandma Beth with winning lottery numbers, which she used to win millions of dollars. I was also getting presents because I had instructed my Grandpa Joe on how to invest in the stock market, and he had tripled their winnings in the last month.

I did have some money of my own. I had two thousand dollars that had come as an advance on a book I wrote while finishing high school. One thousand dollars for the book in its original French, as it had been a school assignment, and an additional one thousand dollars for the same book in English, which also was a school assignment.

My party on the 4th went well. I got to fire the first rocket, per tradition. Then everyone else got to fire a firework rocket. Dad many years ago decreed that on even years the order was youngest to oldest, and on odd years oldest to youngest. Mattie went first, then Mom, then Dad, then Grandma and finally Grandpa, and I got to go again. My second time I got to fire the big rocket, a birthday present tradition from Dad.

Then ice cream, cake and other fireworks managed under the supervision of Dad and Grandpa that the rest of us got to watch and ooh over. Then I got to unwrap presents. I had lots of new clothes, a card with cash from Grandpa and a note letting me know my new airplane had arrived in Tulsa, an Apple //e from Mom, and a new Macintosh from Grandma.

There was a brief clash over getting two computers, but I stepped in. “Both machines are useful, and I plan to write software for both, so thank you!”

Grandpa already knew that I really wanted the newest IBM computer when it came out next month. I had warned him about the mix-up, and to not tell Grandma. He wanted to know why I needed three computers. I explained how each one used different software that was not compatible. I was going to work on solving that problem.

The following day I left with Grandma and Grandpa to go to Tulsa. They had purchased a building, what had been the Mayo Hotel. Before Grandpa bought it, it had been stripped and abandoned. Construction crews were already at work cleaning the place up.

The 16th floor I had reserved as my Mad Science Lab. Originally it had been the Crystal Ballroom. Someday it would be again, but for now the double height open space was perfect for my needs. Above the 16th floor was the penthouse suite which had once been used by Elvis Presley among others. It was earmarked to become a rooftop bar with incredible views.

When we arrived I went straight up to the space. As requested the doors had been covered in plywood, as had the walls. The chandeliers had been removed and carefully stored. The crews were putting up a frame on the ceiling that would hold the new lights for the space. Once completed the plywood would be sprayed with a sealant then coated in a bright white latex paint.

We went down a level where crews were transforming the 15th floor into 4 three bedroom apartments and 2 two bedroom apartments. I had given quick sketches to Grandpa who had taken them to a local architect who was in the process of transforming the hotels 600 tiny rooms into 65 modern luxury apartments, and 200 luxury hotel suites.

One of the major renovations was to soundproof the hotel from downtown noises, and upgrade all the plumbing, wiring, and hvac. Returning the beaux arts charm to the buildings interior was also high on the priority list. It couldn’t be just functional, it had to be beautiful too.

The architect was a lover of art deco and beaux arts so was solidly behind the plan to make the place gleam as it did in its early years. The OneOk building across the street was nearly finished, soon it would be full of office workers, and the restaurants around it would be packed.

By this time next year we would be open to the public, but renovations were going to take time. I moved my stuff into an original room on the fourth floor which had been cleaned and was sufficient with new bedding, beds and furniture. The grandparents had a room next door.

That afternoon I grabbed Grandpa, a bag of fresh coffee, and told him we had an errand to run, but he’d need to trust me. I directed him to two drive up pharmacies where using the names I gave him he picked up two different prescriptions. He paid cash, and was grumbling the whole time about how much trouble he was going to be in.

I directed him North out of town to a small house in a bad neighborhood. There I turned to Grandpa, “Grandpa Joe, this is very important. The future gets very difficult, and I need the man in there. You must not talk at all while we are in that house. Do you understand?”

He agreed, and so followed me in. The front door was unlocked, and the house was trashed. A very tall, very muscled black man was sitting on the couch. He was surrounded by empty bottles, mostly Jack Daniels. He was completely out of it. I passed him and went into the kitchen and made coffee. Grandpa followed behind, looking worried at the giant unconscious man.

When the coffee finished, I poured a cup, and dropped in a few grams of a powder I had created in organic chemistry. After stirring with a questionably clean spoon I walked back into the living room with the cup of coffee.

“Matt. Wakeup! Sergeant Preston open those eyes!” I yelled.

One eye opened, “Who the hell are you? What are you doin in my house?” He slurred.

“I’m making coffee.” I said handing him the cup.

The other eye opened. He reached for the cup and took a sip. With gusto he drank down the rest of the cup.

“I’m out of coffee.” He told me.

“I brought it.”

“Who are you kid?”

“I’m John Wayne Cook. I’m here to recruit you Sergeant.”

“Not a Sergeant any more.”

“Once a Marine always a Marine.”

“Ha, move out of the way I gotta pee.”

He stumbled out of the couch and down a hallway. Laying on the couch was his Remington M1911A1 service pistol. I picked it up, put the safety on, and set it on a table. It was a couple of minutes before he returned, I stood there waiting. Eventually he returned, noticing Grandpa for the first time.

“Who are you?” He asked him.

“He’s with me. Sergeant you have three problems, and I’m here to fix them.”

“I’ve got more than three problems kid.”

“No you only have three, sit on the couch.” I told him.

He slowly walked back to the couch, moved some bottles from the floor to a side table, noticed his gun, but didn’t reach for it.

After he finally sat, I continued. “Problem number one, no job. Solution, you will work for me. I need a bodyguard and driver, I’ll pay you 25,000 a year plus food and housing. Two weeks paid vacation after one year, and full medical.

“Problem number two, you’re very sick, and it’s not the alcohol. You picked up a disease just before you discharged.” I tossed him the package of antibiotics from the pharmacy. “Solution, take those, it’ll clear up in a week, but take the full 18 days.”

“Problem number three, you’re depressed, drunk, and contemplating suicide. Solution, a job and medication will help some, but you’re low on testosterone.” I pulled a small bottle and a syringe out of the second pharmacy bag. “I’m going to give you a shot. Stand up, drop just your pants, and sit back down.”

He did so, not really understanding why he did so, while I filled the syringe from the bottle. A quick check for air bubbles, I stepped toward him. I wiped a spot with an alcohol wipe halfway between his left knee and crotch, and stuck the needle into the muscle just outside of the centerline. He just watched.

Grandpa was looking dizzy, but had stayed quiet as I had asked. Injection complete I pulled the needle out, and dropped it into a empty bottle.

“One injection a week for the rest of your life. Problem solved.” I pulled out a twenty dollar bill, and set it on the table. I put a piece of paper over it, with instructions.

“This is for a cab and your breakfast tomorrow. Be at this address at 8 am with all your belongings, you’re not coming back to this sty again. Now get up, go to the kitchen, take your first dose of antibiotics, and go to bed.” I told him forcefully.

He stood up, pulled his pants up, walked into the kitchen, took his pills, and walked down the hallway to the bedroom, where he dropped into the bed and fell immediately to sleep.

In turned to Grandpa, “We’re done, let’s go.” He turned around and practically fled out the door. I followed locking the front door behind me.

Once we were back in the car, doors shut, and seatbelts on Grandpa started to tremble. “That was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen! What the hell were you thinking!”

“I’m thinking that because I hired Matt, you won’t ever have to do stuff like that with me again.”

“Thank God! Can we go home now?”

“Carry on Macduff.”

“What was that powder you put in his coffee?” Grandpa asked a few minutes later as we got to the highway.

“A little something that helped him follow directions.”

The next morning I met Matt at the front door five minutes to eight. Unlocking the lobby door, I let him in.

“Come on in Matt, just in time.”

“So it wasn’t a dream. I wasn’t sure I hadn’t dreamed it.”

“You’ll see a lot of strange things in the next 10 years.” I told him.

“What happens in ten years?”

“I’ll be 18, you’ll want a new job so you can be with your family, and your daughter will need your time.”

He started to ask questions when my Grandpa came into the lobby. “Don’t bother asking Matt, the kids a genius and just knows stuff. I’m Joe by the way, we didn’t get introduced yesterday.”

Matt shook his hand, “Matt Preston. I sort of remember you from yesterday, but it’s a little fuzzy.”

“Who’s this?” Grandma Beth asked as she came from the elevator.

“My new driver.” I told her. “Grandma Beth meet former Sergeant Matt Preston, of the US Marines.”

“My you are big, aren’t you.” She said as she reached out to shake his hand.

“Do you have your list of supplies?” I asked Grandma.

“Yes right here. I’ve never done such a big renovation before.”

“You have the architect dimensions of the kitchens, and I know you’ll negotiate a good price, just make sure they stick to stainless steel appliances, and no granite countertops!”

“But granite looks so lovely.” Grandma said.

“It’s nothing but looks, it’s a terrible countertop surface. Basic geology Grandma, granite is porous, polishing it does not change that. If you want stone ask for quartz.”

“Ok, and I’d like to see butcher block for the islands.” She continued.

“Sounds good, see you back here for lunch.”

“Be good boys, see you later.” she said as she exited the building.

“Will you be getting the minivans today?” I asked Grandpa.

“Yes, shiny black as requested.”

“Great, I’m going to show Matt his room, then my lab and the rest of the building.”

“Follow me!” I said heading for the grand staircase.

When we reached the mezzanine level, I looked over the balcony and described the plans to him. From there we took the elevator to the fourth floor where I put him in the room across the hall from mine. He dropped his stuff after a brief look. I gave him his key, and a key to the building, then showed him my room.

He thought the two computers were impressive, but didn’t know much about them. I then took him down to the basement, showed him the primary kitchen, and the underground parking. I explained that we were keeping only a small part of this parking, that the hotel pool would be down here.

From there we stopped off at the 15th floor where I showed him the demolition already completed and stepped off the size of the apartments. Then I took him to the penthouse level, the 17th floor. Some of the old penthouse remained, and I told him stories of past residents. We walked out onto the roof patio, and I explained how this was going to be outdoor seating for the roof bar that would replace the penthouse suite.

He asked, “Are you going to name it the Penthouse Bar?”

“My Mom didn’t care for that name, though Dad liked it. I like ‘The High Bar and Grill’ but nobody has settled on a name yet.”

Finally we went down to the sixteenth floor. The doors beyond the elevator lobby were locked, but I used my key to enter the lab. “This is my lab space. I’ll be working here on projects for myself, and the University.”

“University? What University?”

“I’m starting at University of Tulsa this fall. That why I need a driver, somebody to take me back and forth. It’s also why I need a bodyguard, somebody to keep me from being shoved around, or kidnapped.”

“If you’re serious I’m not trained for kidnapping I can drive you around easy enough, but I’m not sure if I’m the guy for the rest of it.”

“Don’t worry, you’re going to a training center in a couple weeks, you’ll come back ready to do your job.”

“You talk like my former CO. It’s hard to believe you’re just a kid.”

“Matthew James Preston, listen to me very carefully.” I said loudly. He stiffened to attention, and I continued. “Someday you will save my life. I know that, like I know two plus two is four. Our relationship will never be just employer employee. I’d like to think of it as more Feudal Lord to Vassal, but there are implications that I can’t explain right now. Just remember this, just as you have an obligation to me, so I have an obligation to you. I will meet my obligations to you always, this I swear! Not just because you save my life.”

“What do you know, you’re eight.” he said, but not harshly.

“Go get the deck of cards from your duffle downstairs. Shuffle them till you’re satisfied, then bring them up here. I’m going to show you what I know.”

He turned and went to get his deck of cards. It took a few minutes, when he returned I was sitting on the plywood floor.

“Here, sit across from me, and place the cards face down.

“Now, is there anyway that I could know what order the cards are in?”


“We will proceed this way. I will name a card, you will flip the top card over. Do you understand?”

“Yeah I get it.”

“Three of clubs.”

He flipped the card over, it was a three of clubs. He went very still. I called the next card, he flipped it over. Correct again, I kept calling out cards, he kept flipping them. After the ninth card he quickly backed away, terror on his face.

“Sergeant Preston, did you stop to think about how I knew where you were yesterday? Did you stop to think about how an eight year old kid came uninvited into the home of a drunk 254 lb six foot eight black Marine with a loaded and cocked gun and made him coffee?

“Why do you think I did this?”

“Because someday I’m going to save your life?” he asked.

“But first I had to save yours.” I said and waited.

“Yeah.” He said softly.

“Two hours later and you would have woken up, found no booze, no coffee, and put a bullet in your head.”

He looked intensely guilty at that statement.

“But,” I continued, “that was three problems ago. We’ve solved those, so I think the question now is if I tell you something, will you believe me? Will you act knowing what I say is true? Will you rely on me for answers when you have questions?”

“You have my oath. My life for yours.” He said after taking a deep breath, and wiping the glitter of unshed tears from his eyes.

“And you have my oath, a life worth living.” I told him solemnly.

The silence filled the room, then the elevator dinged. I stood up and called out, “In here Grandpa.”

“There you are. Need to get an intercom or something. Beth is back, she brought barbecue. It’s down at the mezzanine.”

“Thanks Grandpa, we will be right down.” I called out. The doors to the elevator shut.

I turned to him, looked at him right in the eyes, and smiled. “Most days will be normal enough, at least what passes for normal around me. Today you got the deep end of the pool.”

He smiled back, white teeth flashing.

“Before you say it, even once in jest, ‘Boss’ is ok, but ‘yessum massa’ is not, and will not ever be funny.” I told him before he could speak.

“Now let’s go eat, Grandma Beth got us Dr. Pepper.”

“Yes Boss!”

That afternoon Grandpa turned up with three shiny black mini vans. The hotel would eventually use them as an airport shuttles, but we would use them as needed. The final step was the return of their rental car.

That evening I sat down and discussed with Grandpa where he was at on acquisitions. Everything was proceeding as planned. I provided him a list of stocks to sell, and others to purchase. I gave him numbers, cost to complete each floor, and time of completion. I reminded him that the construction work couldn’t really begin until Dad arrived. He asked when that was, and I let him know that it wouldn’t be till August 1st.

“I’m flying to the Dallas Ft Worth airport on August 3rd.” I told him.

“Who have you told?” He asked smiling.

“Just you. Mom did say I could go if I found a way, but she’s going to be really unhappy when she gets here on the 5th and discovers I’m not here.”

“Why don’t you tell her.”

“Forgiveness is easier than permission.”

“How much trouble will I be in?”

“Less than Dad. I’ll have Matt with me, and I’m not going to get in trouble while I’m gone.”

“When does school start?”

“August 13th for Mattie, I’m starting August 20th.”

“I’ll just pretend that I thought everybody knew you were going after your big game at the lake.” he said confidently.

“Thanks Grandpa, it will help that Dad’s the one who tells you to drive me to the airport.”

That weekend Matt drove me out to several pick-a-part wrecking yards, an air-conditioning supply house, a hardware store, and a furniture store. With my equipment purchased I had plenty to do while Matt was gone for training. Tuesday he flew out to Virginia to a bodyguard school. He’d be back on the twenty first.

I spent most of the time working on the computers. I wrote a nice bitmap art program for the Mac, which included animated bitmaps, and used it to draw the artwork for a computer game. Then I wrote a compiler that I could port to the IBM when I got it.

With artwork and compiler finished, and plenty of time on my hands I wrote the Macintosh version of the computer game Civilization. With more time on my hands I wrote a new compiler that would let me write programs for my Apple //e. Then I wrote a typing tutor program, Alphabet Invasion. Since I had the code, I also did a Macintosh version.

I put the games and art program on floppy disks and labeled them. Then Grandma went with me to a lawyer across the street at the OneOk building. They agreed to represent me, so I gave them a copy of the disks and the users manuals for the software, and asked them to find a reputable computer software publishing house. I also provided data about the image format, and artwork program specifications. I asked them about making the artwork program tipware, and the image specifications and animation method open source. These were concepts they were unfamiliar with, but they promised to research them.

They had IBM, Apple, and Macintosh computers so they put the disks in and started playing. I knew that they would love both games, and work hard to get me a good deal. They also handled patent law and copyright law, which I told them might be useful in the future.

When Matt got back that weekend I set him up on the Apple learning to type. I used the Macintosh and my drawing program to design the new basement pool area. That lead me to a mural for one wall.

I wrote a new program that would take a grayscale depth map image and turn it into a 3D image via autostereogram. I drew grayscale portraits of Poseidon, water nymphs and mermaids. The program processed them, and printed out autostereogram images. I used my ImageWriter to print each picture, then gave them to my Grandpa.

It took some coaching but eventually he could see the images. Then I showed him how they would act as tiled murals on the walls of the pool area. He was convinced that it was perfect, but we had to convince the architect.

I printed out the design for an entire wall at 1/8th scale, and taped them together. Once I put a piece of clear plastic in front and a bright light, Grandma could see them too. Looking at your reflection in the plastic helped her eyes unfocus.

It looked like a semi repeating waves of grays, almost like the ocean. The design called for one inch tiles, and my printer could barely do that resolution. Matt drove Grandma, Grandpa and myself to the architects office. There I used my image software to demonstrate a grayscale depth map, and the resultant autostereogram. After he got the idea of how to see a sample image, we showed him my design for the walls of the basement. He thought it was great.

I showed him how the autostereogram processing program could use any initial image, such as a logo, and use it as the mask. He wanted to know where I got the program, and so I had to explain how I wrote it myself. The only problem with the artwork is that he wanted more colors. I explained to him that I only had a grayscale printer, and my Macintosh only had a grayscale screen.

I used his Macintosh and my software to print a single page autostereogram, but instead of printing shades of grey it printed letters, each representing a single shade of grey, 16 in all.

I gave him the page, and told him to get someone with a marker to highlight all the same letters in a different color and see if it still worked. He sent someone to collect 16 colors for him, and then proceeded to do the work himself. It turned out ok, but not great. I adjusted the settings to use a random dot overlay instead of a pattern, and it went much better. Color tiles would work, but it would be a random display, and the colors would have to be clear and distinct, when he tried one with sixteen shades of blue it didn’t work right.

Eventually we left, but he insisted he get the program to play with. I explained that my lawyers had not copyrighted this software so I could not give it out yet, perhaps in a few weeks. He was disappointed but understood.

When I got back I called the law office. I told them about the new software, and they told me that I had an offer for Civilization. I asked about the offer, it was outright purchase for ten thousand dollars. I declined. I told them that if the offer was for a ten thousand advance on a deal where I got one dollar per game, and trademarks for all terms such as Civilization, and the game rights for sequels remained with me, then I would be interested. I also promised to provide a color version of the game for IBM PCs before the end of the year.

Finally I asked them who the company was. They told me, and I asked if they had ever published any software before, the answer was no, the company wanted to get into the software market, it currently was a book publisher.

I asked them who else they had shopped it around to, they gave me a few names. I thanked them, then mentioned maybe I should just start my own company, I had the software, I just needed a graphic artist, a sales department and a manufacturer. They mentioned then a company that was on the verge of folding, that had wanted the game but couldn’t put any money up. I told them that was who I wanted to talk to, set up a meeting and let them know I was interested in an acquisition, so they should bring their balance sheet.

The law office not knowing what Grandpa was worth asked if I could afford that. I told them that Grandpa bought the hotel for cash, and was paying for the restoration in cash too, so I could borrow what I needed from him. They could see the hotel out the window, that seemed to appease them, and they agreed to set up a meeting. I agreed to come by and show the new software the following day.

They thought the autostereogram pictures were very cool. I gave them copies of the software so they could be copyrighted, including the manuals describing the history, and use of the programs. While I was there they had a call from the software company, they couldn’t meet me in Tulsa, but I was welcome to visit them in Dallas. I got their number so I could call them back later.

As I left I noticed one of the computers had a game of Civilization going. I asked about it, and the guy playing sheepishly suggested, ‘product testing?’ I laughed all the way to the elevator.

On the last Friday in July I had my weekly meeting with Grandpa. I went over my plans for my trip to Texas, made sure Grandpa knew what stocks to buy and sell while I was gone, and gave him some advice on closing the purchase of a hotel management training company, as he was leaving the next day to meet with them over the weekend.

I also gave him the name of the future CEO of that division, and told him to keep an eye out for him as he would be on the plane with him. He was surprised, but I suggested trading business cards, and talking to him about his experience. When he said he didn’t have any business cards I gave him a box with a bow on it. He opened it to discover he did indeed have business cards.

“Joseph Carpenter, Chairman of the Board, Carpenter LLC, Tulsa, Oklahoma,” he read. Then he asked, “what phone number is this?”

“That’s the number that’s being installed by the phone company next week.” I told him.

He started to ask ‘How!’ but stopped himself in time. Then he thanked me instead.

“Any more new business?” I asked.

“I’ve been thinking about those tile 3d murals of yours. They are going to be very expensive, and will one little mistake by the tile installer ruin the effect?”

“All taken care of, I’ll be working with a mechanical engineer at the University to build a tile printer. It automatically glues the tiles to a screen so they can be installed in large chunks. The machine prints the tiles in the sense that it is loaded with the different colors, and glues only the right one in the right spot. Much cheaper to install, faster and more accurate too.”

“Good, because I’d like to do that throughout the hotel.”

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