“So if someone is about to do something destructive or hurtful to you or someone around you or even to his or her self,” I explain, holding up the little spritzing bottle. “You spray this empathy dispersion on that person. In particulate form, the empathy readily permeates the psyche, inducing a change of heart. The person you’ve just sprayed will then readily relate to whoever was going to get hurt and reconsider. Even if some malice has already been inflicted, the spray can still be effective because once sprayed, the wrongdoer will identify with the wronged party, and thus, the wrongdoer will be moved to change his or her behavior.”
Jozine smiles and says jovially, “Great! So when can we put this into production?”
“That’s the problem. You can’t produce empathy. Not with existing technology. You can only cultivate it.”
“That’s really slow.”
“Well, it takes time, yes.”
“So you rigged up a recombinant system?”
“No. No one has been able to setup a viable expression system.”
Puzzled, she asks, “So where did you get the empathy for the proto- type?”
I’m about to answer when she answers the question for herself and murmurs, “Oh. . . ”
“Don’t worry. I feel fine,” I assure her.
“I’ve always admired your dedication to this research,” she tells me.
Then her eyes brighten wildly, and she says, “So why don’t we recruit a bunch of hyper-empathic dudes to donate? They’ve got empathy to spare.
They’d probably feel better after they donate, and we can compensate them for their empathy. This would benefit everyone!”
“I thought donations could only be done for medical procedures and basic research. Not for commercial products.”
“I’ll have the legal team look into that. In the meantime, just work on optimizing the protocol. If nothing else, we can find an animal source. A lot of species have empy homologs.”
“You know I am ambivalent about working with animals,” I remind her.
“Well, look. You know I don’t take these matters lightly. I’m not vegan because it’s fashionable,” Jozine says flatly. “But we’re talking about something that could help humanity tremendously.”
I nod, feeling like we are being drawn slowly but unmistakably into a familiar debate.
Then she adds almost fanatically, “If we put distilled empathy into drinking water, you know what we could accomplish together?”
“Would all the people we’d then be imposing empathy upon relate to our motives?” I ask.
“I think so. Because they should then have enough empathy to relate to humanity as a whole and understand that such measures are even if not necessary highly beneficial.”
Suddenly, overwhelmed by some feeling I don’t understand, I raise the spritzing bottle with the nozzle pointed at Jozine. Our eyes lock. Hers peer intensely, almost wildly into mine.
“Go ahead,” she says, smiling sincerely but somehow crazily. “See if I’ll relate to your motives.”
I drop the bottle, my eyes lowering to watch it fall away from me and hit the laboratory floor. Then, I lean heavily against the lab bench beside me, breathing deeply.
Jozine puts her hand on my sunken shoulder, and I wish we could all just relate to each other like this.